ATLANTA (AP) - Kris Medlen was the National League's most dominant pitcher in the final two months last season.
This year Medlen knows he can't rely on past success to return to top form. Medlen has lost three straight starts for the first time in his career after Dan Haren outpitched him in the Atlanta Braves' 3-1 loss to the Washington Nationals on Thursday night.
``I just didn't have my A game that first couple of innings,' he said. ``That's how it's been kind of the whole year for me. I haven't been locked in from pitch one to pitch 100.'
The Nationals, who snapped a nine-game losing streak to Atlanta on Wednesday, allowed their NL East rivals to get only three runners in scoring position over two nights.
Washington got off to a good start in the first off Medlen, breaking its 15-game streak without a first-inning run when Denard Span led off with a double, took third on a wild pitch and scored on Steve Lombardozzi's RBI single.
Adam LaRoche doubled and rookie Anthony Rendon singled to start the second. With two outs, Span doubled past third baseman Chris Johnson on a play that was originally scored an error and later changed to a hit.
``(Johnson) came in and said, `Hey, I straight booted that ball,' " Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. ``It was off the end of the bat a little bit, and it just kind of spun and got away from him a little bit. I'm sure in his mind he could probably make that play 99 out of 100 times.'
Medlen (1-4) allowed seven hits, three runs and three walks in seven innings. He struck out eight, but hardly felt like the blossoming ace who last year was the NL pitcher of the month for August and September.
Before Medlen lost 2-0 to Philadelphia on April 4, the Braves had won his last 23 starts - the longest such streak in a career and one better than the New York Giants posted with Carl Hubbell in 1936-37 and matched by the New York Yankees in 1950 and `53.
``It's frustrating, but I've shown some signs of my old self, or however you want to call it,' he said. ``But I just need to go out there and consistently hit my spots and consistently throw quality strikes. Not just strikes.'
Haren (3-3) gave up four hits and one run with one walk and four strikeouts.
Rafael Soriano earned his ninth save in 10 chances by pitching the ninth. He retired Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman on groundouts before Evan Gattis singled and Dan Uggla popped up.
Haren shook off his 7.31 career ERA in three career starts at Turner Field to pitch well in consecutive outings for the first time since signing as a free agent with the Nationals last winter.
He gave the Nats pretty much what they got on Wednesday, when Jordan Zimmerman pitched eight scoreless innings against Atlanta. Haren had the Braves guessing all night until Uggla's fifth homer cut the lead to 3-1 with two out in the seventh.
Needing just 13 pitches to get through the first two innings, Haren didn't allow a hit until Freeman's two-out single in the fourth. Haren made just 69 pitches through the seventh.
Of Atlanta's three runners in scoring position the last two games, two of them - Medlen and Paul Maholm - were pitchers.
Medlen, though, was blaming himself for not pitching better in the first two innings.
``If you throw 88 and it's over the plate, it's going to get hit,' he said. ``Like I said, I hate doing that whole `I kept us in the game,' but I cleaned it up and thought I threw some pretty good pitches out there and battled my tail off like always.'
NOTES: Braves LF Justin Upton was chosen as NL player of the month for April. ... Gattis was picked as NL rookie of the month. ... Nationals LF Bryce Harper had X-rays on his left shoulder before the game. He left Wednesday's win over the Braves in the sixth soon after wincing on a check swing. The X-rays were negative and Harper was diagnosed with a bruise under his left shoulder blade. He went 0 for 4 with a ninth-inning walk. ... Washington RF Jayson Werth went 0 for 2 and left for pinch-hitter Roger Bernadina in the fifth. Werth returned to the lineup after missing two straight games with a strained right hamstring and a bruised left ankle.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved