Braves on brink of playoff berth, open set with Marlins

The Atlanta Braves are one victory away from punching their ticket to the 2012 postseason.

Winning games just happens to be Kris Medlen's specialty.

The Braves have won Medlen's past 21 starts, a run that dates back to the 2010 season, and hope to keep that streak intact on Tuesday in the first of three straight games against the visiting Miami Marlins.

Atlanta blew an 8 1/2-game lead a season ago in the wild card race and missed out on the postseason thanks to a stunning collapse. There has been no such repeat this September, with the Braves having won seven of their last nine and 14 of 21 this month.

A 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday lowered the Braves' magic number to clinching a wild card spot to just two and that number was lowered to one on Monday when the Milwaukee Brewers dropped a decision to the Washington Nationals.

Atlanta trails Washington by five games for first place in the NL East with nine to play.

The Braves have the right man to get the job done tonight in Medlen, who has gone 8-0 with a 0.76 earned run average in 10 games since being inserted into the starting rotation. He has yielded just six earned runs over 70 2/3 innings in that time while striking out 72.

The righty is coming off a win over the Marlins on Wednesday as he scattered four hits over eight scoreless innings, walking one and fanning six. He improved to 9-1 with a save and 1.51 earned run average in 48 total appearances this season, having not lost since a May 26 relief outing versus the Nats.

"I felt good. I didn't have that two-seamer coming back to lefties, I was kind of pulling a little bit," Medlen said. "Overall I felt great. I was trying to get a feel for the game, trying to see if they were going to be aggressive, or patient. I don't know I kind of just mixed and matched."

Atlanta, meanwhile, hasn't lost a game that Medlen has started since May 23, 2010. The Braves' 21 straight victories with the 26-year-old on the mound is the longest in baseball since the New York Yankees won 22 straight starts made by Whitey Ford in 1950 and '53. Ford missed the '51 and '52 seasons for military service.

Medlen, who is 2-0 with a 0.53 ERA in four games (2 starts) versus the Marlins this season, was moved up a day to put him on regular rest for a potential one-game playoff on Oct. 5.

The Marlins will start 22-year-old Nathan Eovaldi, who is 4-12 with a 4.36 ERA in 20 games this season split between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami. He is 3-6 with a 4.59 ERA in 10 starts since getting traded to the Marlins and lost four straight starts before getting a no-decision versus the Braves on Tuesday.

The righty was excellent in his club's 4-3 win, hurling eight scoreless innings of four-hit ball, walking two and striking out five. He is 0-1 with a 3.94 ERA in three meetings with the Braves in his career.

Miami, considered one of the 2012 season's biggest disappointments, has lost four straight and six of seven, getting swept in three games over the weekend by the New York Mets.

The Marlins are also dealing with some in-house issues as reliever Heath Bell was critical of manager Ozzie Guillen on Monday during an interview with Miami radio station 560 WQAM.

Bell was signed to be the Marlins' closer this season, but struggled early and was taken out of the role by Guillen despite signing a three-year, $27 million deal.

"It's hard to respect a guy that doesn't tell you the truth or doesn't tell you face to face," Bell said. "There's probably reasons why."

The Marlins sit last in the NL East, 27 games out of first place.

The Braves have won 11 of 15 versus the Marlins this season, going 4-2 at home.