PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — There’s no way Kris Medlen could live up to the expectations he set last season.
The Atlanta Braves have no complaints.
It looks as if he’s ready to be a major contributor in the postseason.
Medlen pitched seven scoreless innings, Brian McCann hit a three-run homer and Atlanta completed a sweep of the Cleveland Indians with a 3-1 victory Thursday night.
“I’m being aggressive,” said Medlen, who relied heavily on his fastball in the early innings. “Hopefully, I can keep it going through September and October.”
McCann went deep in the third after Justin Upton kept the inning going with a two-out single. Upton had to leave the game in the sixth after being struck on the left hand by a pitch, but X-rays were negative. He is day to day.
Medlen (11-12) capped a series of dominant pitching by the Braves, who surrendered just three runs in three games and maintained a commanding 13-game lead in the NL East. David Carpenter gave up a pinch-hit homer to Lonnie Chisenhall in the eighth, but Craig Kimbrel worked a scoreless ninth for his 43rd save in 46 chances.
“We’ve been getting good pitching all season long,” McCann said. “That’s why we’re in the position we’re in.”
Medlen hasn’t matched what he did the final two months of 2012, when he joined the rotation, made a dozen starts and went 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA. But manager Fredi Gonzalez likes what he sees.
“People were expecting him to do the same thing,” Gonzalez said. “That’s just a fantasy.”
Ubaldo Jimenez (9-9) took the loss. He pitched seven strong innings, but one big mistake cost him. McCann launched his 19th homer of the season about 10 rows back in the right-field seats, giving the Braves all the runs they would need for their fourth straight victory.
The only good news for the Indians: They didn’t lose any ground in the AL wild-card race, remaining four games back of Oakland. The A’s lost 7-6 at Detroit.
“Really, the whole series was their ability to get a big hit and we didn’t,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “Low-scoring games and they were able to find a way to get a big hit and we didn’t.”
Medlen surrendered six hits in snapping a two-game losing streak, taking advantage of a team that is struggling offensively in what could be a crucial stretch of its season. The Indians have scored more than three runs only once in the last seven games as they prepare for upcoming series against AL Central-leading Detroit and playoff contender Baltimore.
Cleveland didn’t get more than one runner aboard in any inning until the seventh, when Carlos Santana led off with a single and Yan Gomes reached on a hit with one out. The threat fizzled as Asdrubal Cabrera flied out to center and Mike Aviles lined out to right.
“When you’re not knocking the ball all over the ballpark, then getting key hits is huge,” Francona said. “We haven’t been able to.”
With the Cleveland offense posing little threat, the biggest scare for the Braves came in the sixth when Upton was plunked on the left hand by a 92 mph fastball from Jimenez.
As Upton walked off the field, there was a sense of dread at Turner Field. Just eight days earlier, outfielder Jason Heyward was struck in the face by a pitch against the New York Mets, leaving him with a broken jaw that required surgery. He could miss the rest of the regular season, though Heyward hopes to return in time for the playoffs.
Upton’s injury was not nearly as serious, it turned out, the Braves finally catching a break in what has been an injury plagued season.
“That’s a fragile area,” said Upton, his hand wrapped after the game. “It was definitely a little bit scary.”
Gonzalez said he’ll probably sit Upton on Friday as a precaution and “go from there.”
NOTES: The Indians released RHP Brett Myers from his contract. After signing a $7 million contract, he went 0-3 with an 8.02 ERA before going on the disabled list April 20. He didn’t pitch again for the Indians, but hopes to catch on with another team for the final month. … Chisenhall’s drive off Carpenter was the first pinch-hit homer of his career. … The Braves begin a three-game home series against Miami on Friday, with Julio Teheran (10-7) facing Jose Fernandez (10-5). … Zach McAllister (7-7) will go for the Indians against Detroit’s Rick Porcello (10-7) in the opener of that series.
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