ATLANTA (AP) — Kris Medlen felt relaxed before making his first start in nearly two years.
For a guy who’s started just 19 of 109 career appearances, he didn’t feel any jitters.
“I was much more calm,” he said. “If you’d asked me that in the first start I had, it would’ve been completely different. But I just felt like I was in control.”
Medlen had a successful return to the rotation, Brian McCann homered and the Atlanta Braves beat the Miami Marlins 7-1 on Tuesday night for their seventh straight win.
Atlanta has won 10 of 13 to close within 2½ games of first-place Washington in the NL East following the Nationals’ 8-0 loss to Philadelphia.
Rain delayed the game 1 hour, 53 minutes before the start of the sixth inning.
Medlen (2-1) allowed four hits, one run and one walk with three strikeouts in five innings. He made his first start since receiving no-decision in an 8-3 win over the New York Mets on Aug. 4, 2010.
“He gave us everything we wanted him to,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He was trying to talk us into going one more inning, but no chance. He goes back (to start) on Sunday, and we’ll add another 20-25 pitches to his outing and hopefully get us deeper in the ballgame.”
McCann’s 18th homer, a solo shot, gave the Braves a 4-1 lead in the third. In his last 19 games, McCann has nine homers and 20 RBIs.
“I’ve been feeling good for a while,” McCann said. “The first half (of the season) was — I’ve got a lot of making up to do. Hopefully this next month I’ll just keep going. I’ve got two more months to finish strong and keep going.”
Ricky Nolasco (8-10) gave up seven hits, four runs and four walks and struck out six in five innings. He has lost four straight starts and has a 7.48 ERA over that span.
Donnie Murphy’s third homer made it 1-0 in the first, but the Braves took a 3-1 lead in the bottom half of the inning.
After Martin Prado and Jason Heyward singled and advanced on Nolasco’s balk, McCann’s RBI groundout made it 1-1.
Dan Uggla walked to load the bases before Juan Francisco’s liner scored Heyward from third and Uggla from second to put the Braves up 3-1.
Nolasco, who made 18 of his 34 pitches for balls and had a mound visit from pitching coach Randy St. Claire in the first, dropped to 0-3 with an 8.79 ERA in three starts against Atlanta this season.
After McCann’s homer, Nolasco escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third by striking out Medlen.
“Your team gives you a 1-0 lead and to come in and give up three, it sucks all the energy out of the team right off the bat,” Nolasco said. “It’s not what you’re looking to do as a starting pitcher.”
Rookie Tyler Pastornicky hit his first career pinch-hit homer and his second this year off Dan Jennings to make it 5-1 in the sixth. After second baseman Emilio Bonifacio’s fielding error, Heyward followed with an RBI single for a 6-1 lead.
Atlanta added a run in the eighth. McCann scored from second when Freddie Freeman singled off Ryan Webb and left fielder Greg Dobbs made a fielding error.
Miami has lost two straight and 10 of 13.
Cory Gearrin, Chad Durbin, Eric O’Flaherty and Jair Jurrjens combined to allow the Marlins three hits and no walks with two strikeouts in the last four innings. Since July 3, Atlanta’s bullpen has a 1.92 ERA over a 24-game span.
Medlen, who made his 19th career start, was 1-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 38 relief appearances this season. He won as a starter for the first time since July 7, 2010, at Philadelphia.
“I love the mound presence,” Gonzalez said. “I love seeing him getting the ball back on the rubber, and he says, ‘Here it is. Hit it.’ Murphy hits a homer on the (fifth) pitch of the game and it doesn’t even bother him.”
The Braves have won 10 of 12 at Turner Field.