The Braves would love to get another crack at the Nationals, having chased them futilely all summer and coming up four games short in the divisional race. But Atlanta will have to do something it hasn't done in more than a decade — win a playoff round. The Braves have dropped six straight series since winning a divisional playoff in 2001, including an 0-5 mark in elimination games at Turner Field.
They don't want to go out like that again, not with 40-year-old Chipper Jones planning to retire as soon as the season is over.
"You don't have that many opportunities in your career to play in the playoffs or to play in whatever this is called," Medlen said. "But especially for him. It's his last year. It inspires you to want to get a few more games under his belt and let him go out on top, which is where he belongs."
If the Braves needed any more motivation, they could turn to the words of Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright.
As St. Louis closed in on the second wild card, the players took note of the raucous celebration by the Braves after they clinched a playoff spot — especially Wainwright, who came up in the Atlanta organization.
"No disrespect to what they did, but I think we're going to save the big pop for after we beat Atlanta," he said.
That little sound bite has made the rounds in the Braves clubhouse, providing some extra fire. But, overlooking the one-game format, this isn't the gridiron. Bulletin-board fodder only goes so far. A player isn't suddenly going to hit the ball harder because he's mad at the other team. A pitcher isn't going to get an extra 5 mph on his fastball.
"It's not like football where we post it and I want to rip his head off," said Braves catcher David Ross, noting that Wainwright won't even be on the 25-man roster for this game. "But it is one of those things, you wonder why guys comment about other teams. I feel like, as a player, I wouldn't make a comment about another team in a negative light to a media outlet. I just feel like I'm better than that."
No one has been better than Medlen over the past two months.
Forced into the rotation by injuries and ineffective performances, he suddenly became baseball's hottest pitcher. He hardly looks the part, generously listed at 5-foot-10 with a fastball that struggles to reach 90 mph. But he is especially bedeviling with his changeup, a pitch the organization ordered him to throw coming up through the minors.
In 12 starts this season, Medlen is 9-0 with an 0.97 ERA. He struck out 13 hitters in one game, 12 in another. In six of those appearances, he didn't give up an earned run.
Away from the field, it's hard to take Medlen seriously. He is a bundle of nervous energy, which he copes with by delivering a constant string of jokes and one-liners. As manager Fredi Gonzalez finished up his time at the podium Thursday, Medlen stood against the wall, clapping slowly.
When asked about his pregame routine, Medlen made it clear he doesn't have one.
Except for the peanut butter and honey.
"It's a light meal. It's good energy," he said. "It's not like I'm going to eat fried chicken."
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963