Published Sunday, September 30, 2012
BY CHARLES ODUM
AP SPORTS WRITER
ATLANTA (AP) – Kris Medlen did his part to ensure Chipper Jones' last regular-season home game was a win.
Then again, all of the Atlanta Braves have been winning a lot with Medlen on the mound.
The Braves won for a major league record 23rd straight time in games started by Medlen, beating the New York Mets 6-2 on Sunday as a sellout crowd cheered Jones' every move.
Medlen (10-1) gave up one unearned run and three hits in six innings, adding to his momentum heading into the postseason. The Braves have already clinched an NL wild-card spot and are on track to host the one-game playoff, which Medlen would start.
"I think the best part about it is my name is in the history books, but it's a team thing," Medlen said. "It's a really cool feeling. Like I said, we're not done. I hope we keep going."
According to STATS LLC research going back to 1921, only two other teams won 22 straight starts by a pitcher: the New York Giants with Carl Hubbell (1936-37) and the Yankees with Whitey Ford (1950-53). Ford's streak was interrupted by military service.
With Washington's 10-4 loss to St. Louis, the Braves gained a game in the NL East and trail the first-place Nationals by three games. The Nationals have a magic number of one for clinching the division. The Braves close the regular season with three games at Pittsburgh.
The Mets (73-86) topped 2011's loss total and ensured their most losses since a 70-92 record in 2009.
Atlanta is 12-0 in Medlen's starts this season after he moved to the rotation on July 31. The team's streak of 23 straight wins in Medlen's starts began in 2010.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he was thinking of the postseason by limiting Medlen to six innings.
"If we were able to do that, get him the win, get the team the win and keep him right where we wanted in terms of pitches and innings, that was a good day," Gonzalez said.
The Mets' only run off Medlen was set up by first baseman Freddie Freeman's throwing error on Justin Turner's grounder in the third. The wild throw to Medlen, who was covering first base, allowed Ruben Tejada, who singled, to score from second.
David Ross hit a three-run homer in the second off Jenrry Mejia (1-2). Jones had a single and two walks and wouldn't agree to come out of the game early.
"I tried to pinch-hit for him, get a big ovation for him," Gonzalez said. "He said, `I want to finish this.' That's just the way he is."
Jones' parents were in Atlanta for the series.
"To be honest with you, I saw us winning this game early and I wanted to go give my mom and dad a hug after the game," Jones said. "If I had taken myself out of the game, I'd be in (the clubhouse) watching fantasy football."
The retiring 40-year-old slugger said he had "a lot of relief" the weekend was over.
"I'm glad it's over and we can go to Pittsburgh and finish out the year and get ready for the next one back here when all the fun is going to start," Jones said.
Jones' teammates stayed behind in the dugout as he ran onto the field to a standing ovation to start the game. The Braves joined the ovation, and even some New York players applauded him. Mets third base coach Tim Teufel walked over and shook Jones' hand, and finally the Braves joined Jones on the field.
"It's a well-deserved tribute," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We all salute him in his career. He's a great, great player."
Jones was immediately tested as he made a dive to his left to make a stop on a grounder from Mets leadoff hitter Ruben Tejada. The All-Star third baseman made a one-hop throw to first base from his knees for the out. He made another diving stop on a sharply hit grounder by Scott Hairston to end the inning.
Braves chanted "Let's go, Chipper!" when he batted in the second, and booed Mejia for walking him.
Jones' first hit of his final regular-season home series came with his third-inning single, ending a 0-for-13 drought that included four walks. He tipped his helmet to the fans before his at-bats in the first and seventh innings. With fans standing in the seventh, Jones walked again.
Jones received another loud ovation when he took the field in the ninth. Fans chanted "Thank you, Chipper" as the inning started and then "Chipper! Chipper!" with two outs.
The Braves scored a run in the fifth on doubles by Michael Bourn and Jason Heyward. Andrelton Simmons doubled in Dan Uggla in the sixth off Collin McHugh and scored on Bourn's single.
Mejia gave up four runs on six hits in five innings.
"I thought he threw the ball good today," Collins said. "He made a real bad throw to Ross, right down the middle. But his two-seamer was the best one I've seen him have."
The Mets scored one run off Cory Gearrin in the ninth on a double by Ike Davis, a walk to Lucas Duda and a single by Andres Torres.
Closer Craig Kimbrel recorded the final out on a grounder by Fred Lewis for his 42nd save.
Bourn was a late addition to Atlanta's lineup after missing six games with a sprained left thumb.
Medlen lined a foul ball into the Mets' dugout in the fourth, hitting catcher Josh Thole. Thole's right ear was red and swollen but he said he passed a concussion test.
"I just saw the doctor and there's no issue, other than this big ear I have," Thole said.
"It got me more on the cartilage of my ear, I think. That's what saved me. It definitely could have been worse."
NOTES: The sellout crowd of 50,635 raised the Braves' attendance for the season at 2,420,171, a slight increase from their 2011 total. ... Following Collins' lead, the Mets had a theme dress day, with all the players and coaches wearing football jerseys - NFL or college - to the park. The team had a similar hockey jersey day earlier in the season. ... Mets rookie RHP Jeurys Familia will make his first career start Monday against Florida's Josh Johnson. Familia has an 8.64 ERA in seven games in relief. R.A. Dickey is scheduled to start on Tuesday. ... LHP Paul Maholm will face Pirates LHP Jeff Locke on Monday night in Pittsburgh.
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