ATLANTA -- Even as their starting rotation has proven inconsistent throughout much of this season, the Braves have maintained their belief that they are best suited with Kris Medlen in their bullpen. But now that Medlen has finally gained a chance to make another start, they might have a hard time removing him from the rotation.
Medlen had little trouble handling a depleted Marlins lineup, and Brian McCann extended his recent power barrage while helping the Braves match a season-best seven-game winning streak with a 7-1 win on Tuesday night at Turner Field.
"I thought [Medlen] did a terrific job," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He really did, and he gave us everything we wanted."
While going 18-8 in July, the Braves moved to within 2 1/2 games of the first-place Nationals in the National League East race. Along the way, they benefited from the impressive resurgence of McCann, who has hit nine of his 18 home runs within his past 65 at-bats. The nine home runs stand as the most the six-time All-Star catcher has hit in a single month this year.
McCann's eight-inning double raised his batting average to .243. That is still a long way from his .282 career batting average. But at the same time, the five-time Silver Slugger Award winner feels better about his current mark than the .226 batting average he carried into July.
"I've been feeling good for a while now," McCann said. "The first half, I've got a lot of making up to do. So hopefully this next month, I just keep going."
Another Braves player entering August on a tear is Juan Francisco, who backed Medlen with his second three-hit performance in less than a week. Francisco has notched a multi-hit game in each of his past three starts, and his nine RBIs in July matched his total from May and June combined.
Francisco highlighted a three-run first inning with a two-out, two-run single, and McCann capped his productive month by damaging Marlins starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco with a third-inning solo home run. The contributions were much appreciated by Medlen, who limited the Marlins to one run and four hits in five innings. His only damage came courtesy of Donnie Murphy's first-inning solo home run.
"I love the mound presence," Gonzalez said. "I love getting the ball getting back on the rubber, here it is, throw it. Murphy hits a home run on the third, fourth pitch of the game and that didn't bother him. 'Here it is, go hit another one.' I like that. I like the tempo he showed on the mound."
With Medlen making his first Major League start since Aug. 4, 2010, there was reason to wonder if he might battle some nerves or rust. But the confident and talented hurler managed to look much like he had while helping the Braves win 13 of the 14 games that he started before undergoing Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in August of 2010.
"He's here to help this team win," McCann said. "That performance right there, he started right where he left off in 2010. He was one of our best starters in 2010 before he got hurt. He picked up tonight and was right there again."
The Braves were prepared to put Medlen in the rotation when they sent him to stretch out for two weeks with Triple-A Gwinnett in June. But when it was time to return, it was determined there was a greater need for him in the bullpen. Now, the Braves are just keeping their options open.
With Tommy Hanson on the disabled list until at least Aug. 15, Medlen will make at least two more starts before possibly moving back to the bullpen, where he has been utilized in a variety of middle-relief roles this year.
"My career, I've taken it a day at a time and every day it has been different," Medlen said. "The fact that I get another start is good for me and I'm happy about it. I'm glad it worked out for us today and we kept the winning streak going."
After surrendering Murphy's home run and Jose Reyes' single in the first inning, Medlen turned the tide by getting Carlos Lee to ground into an inning-ending double play. The only other Marlins player to advance past first base against him was Nolasco, who went to second base on Francisco's two-out error in the third inning.
Medlen's effort was limited to 57 pitches once a heavy rainfall led to a one-hour and 53-minute rain delay at the end of the fifth inning. Even if the delay had not occurred, Gonzalez was going to pull Medlen after five innings.
"I was so much more calm," Medlen said. "If you would have asked me before my first start in 2010 or before the first start of my career, it would have been completely different. But I just felt like I was in control and I was trying to pound the zone. I knew I had a pitch count, but I wasn't too worried about it."
It is that easy-go-lucky, selfless approach that has helped Medlen prove successful and garner respect throughout the Braves clubhouse.
"That guy impresses me all of the time," McCann said. "I worked out with him this offseason. He's such an athlete. We'd throw the football around and he doesn't drop a pass. He's an unbelievable athlete and he can do anything."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.