ATLANTA — Kris Medlen showed why he is in line to pitch the opener for the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series and Chris Johnson made sure that the gem wasn’t wasted Friday night.
Johnson broke up the duel between Medlen and Cliff Lee by hitting a homer leading off the eighth inning, and the Braves defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 1-0 before a crowd of 38,711 at Turner Field.
Lee, who struck out 13, had retired 16 straight batters before Johnson connected on an 0-2 slider that was down and in for his 12th homer.
“He is one of the best in the big leagues and Medlen showed he was one of the best in the big leagues, too,” Johnson said.
“What a pitching matchup,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “That was a playoff-type game right there.”
Medlen (15-12) allowed two hits, walked two and struck out seven in eight innings to win his fifth straight decision. He allowed just one batter over the minimum.
“I’m flying high right now,” said Medlen, who is 9-2 since Braves ace Tim Hudson was lost for the season with a broken ankle and had previously has his problems with the Phillies.
Lee (14-8) gave up three hits and didn’t walk a batter in taking the hard-luck loss on Johnson’s homer.
“No part of me was trying to to hit a home run on that swing,” Johnson said.
“I felt like I made a good pitch,” Lee said. “I was trying to bury it down and in. It was down and in. I think it was a ball. He put a good swing on it and hit a home run and that’s the game.”
Craig Kimbrel then pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts for his 50th save and the Braves remained tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the best record in the National League.
“It’s frustrating, but you’ve got to give credit to Medlen,” Lee said.
Medlen hadn’t allowed a hit until two outs in the sixth inning, when Cesar Hernandez beat out a slow roller that Johnson barehanded in front of third base and threw late on. Hernandez then tried to steal second, but was thrown out by Evan Gattis.
“That’s the longest I’ve gone at any level without giving up a hit,” Medlen said.
Chase Utley had a single to left field with one out in the seventh innings for the other hit and Carlos Ruiz followed by grounding into a double play.
Lee struck out the side in the fourth and fifth innings, and reached double figures for the fifth time with the first of his strikeouts in the sixth inning.
The only hits he had allowed until Johnson’s homer were singles by Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons in the second inning, and Simmons’ was a swinging bunt.
Lee struck out 14 — the second most in his career — over eight innings in a victory over the Miami Marlins on Sept. 16. He fanned 16 over seven innings against the Braves in a 5-0 loss on May 6, 2011.
Medlen walked Ruiz leading off the second inning and Utley with two outs in the fourth, both on 3-2 pitches. Medlen induced a double play in the second, though, and Ruiz struck out after Utley’s walk.
Lee came in with a 6-2 record and a 1.65 ERA in his past nine starts against the Braves, with 67 strikeouts and five walks in 65 1/3 innings. On Sept. 6, he struck out 10 and walked none in eight innings while allowing two hits in a 2-1 win at Atlanta.
Notes: RHP Jordan Walden hasn’t pitched since Sept. 17 because of shoulder issues and is in danger of not being a part of the Braves’ bullpen for the postseason. Walden, who is 4-3 with a 3.30 ERA in 49 games, missed three weeks with groin issues and then struggled in three games after his return.
... LHP Mike Minor (13-8, 3.22 ERA) will try to break a three-game losing streak as he faces the Phillies on Saturday night. He is in line to start the second game of the NL Division Series for the Braves.