The Atlanta Braves' recent offensive struggles have been masked by the opposition's inability to crack their pitching staff.
And that's without one of their stingiest starters even taking the mound.
Kris Medlen looks to win his sixth straight outing as visiting Atlanta seeks a fourth consecutive shutout Saturday against the New York Mets.
After being shut out by Colorado on Tuesday, the Braves have won three straight by a combined 5-0, beating the Mets 3-0 in the series opener Friday.
NL wild card-leading Atlanta (79-60), which got solo homers from Jason Heyward and Dan Uggla, is hitting .205 during its winning streak but hasn't needed much offense with the pitching staff tossing three consecutive shutouts for the first time since Sept. 4-7, 2002.
"You try to throw up as many zeros as possible," said Paul Maholm, who struck out six in 5 1-3 innings Friday.
The Braves have never pitched four straight shutouts in their history, but they seemingly have a solid chance to accomplish the feat with Medlen taking the mound.
Medlen (7-1, 1.56 ERA) won his fifth straight outing Monday, allowing an unearned run and five hits while striking out a career-high 12 in a complete-game, 6-1 victory over the Rockies.
The right-hander is 6-0 with a 0.54 ERA while striking out 50 and walking five since entering the starting rotation July 31. He hasn't allowed an earned run since giving up one in 6 1-3 innings of a 9-3 win over the Mets on Aug. 11, though his scoreless innings streak came to an end at 34 2-3 on Monday - the Braves' longest since Greg Maddux in 2000.
"I know how I am as a pitcher and I know how competitive I am," Medlen told the team's official website. "When I put it all together, I think I can get results I want. Did I know it would be this kind of success? Not quite. But did I think I could do it? Yes."
The Braves have won Medlen's last 18 starts dating to 2010 - prior to him undergoing Tommy John surgery - marking the longest such streak since the Yankees won 21 consecutive games Roger Clemens started in 2001.
Atlanta has won eight of the last nine meetings with New York (65-73), which has dropped three of four overall and 17 of 21 at home. David Wright went 1 for 4 on Friday and is hitting .182 over his last six games against the Braves.
"We're not hitting at all. And we haven't been able to get big hits here at home," manager Terry Collins said.
New York looks to bounce back with help from Jeremy Hefner, who has pitched well in his last two outings but doesn't have a win to show for it.
Hefner (2-5, 4.52) gave up one run in eight innings of a 2-1 win over Houston on Aug. 26 before allowing two runs in six innings of a 5-3 victory over Miami last Saturday.
The rookie right-hander is 2-4 with a 4.64 ERA in nine starts.
"He was down in the zone all night with all his pitches, and threw his breaking ball from behind in the count," Collins said last weekend. "I thought he pitched really well."
Hefner pitched 3 2-3 innings of relief against the Braves in Medlen's win last month, giving up a solo homer to Freddie Freeman.
The Associated Press News Service
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