ATLANTA — The Braves say their spring training decision to have Kris Medlen start the season in the bullpen was based on the right-hander’s innings limit in his return from elbow surgery.
That decision has allowed Medlen to emerge as the most dominant starter on the staff in the most important part of the season. Medlen struck out a career-high 12 to win his sixth straight decision and lead Atlanta to a 6-1 win over the Colorado Rockies on Monday.
Medlen (7-1) allowed five hits without a walk in his second complete game of the season.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Medlen had the same innings limit as Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, who has thrown 1561/3 innings and has only two more starts. Medlen has thrown only 104 innings and will be available if the Braves make the playoffs.
Medlen extended his streak of scoreless innings to 342/3 — the Braves’ longest since Greg Maddux in 2000 — before the Rockies scored an unearned run in the seventh. He threw 111 pitches, including 85 strikes.
“He was terrific,” said Colorado manager Jim Tracy. “And he’s been terrific for a while.”
David Ross hit a two-run double in Atlanta’s four-run third inning.
Rockies starter Tyler Chatwood (4-4) gave up six runs, five earned, in only three innings. Chatwood allowed only three hits but was hurt by five walks, matching his career high.
Chatwood loaded the bases with three walks in the third. Martin Prado drove in Michael Bourn with a flyball to centerfield. Juan Francisco’s single drove in Jose Constanza. Ross added a two-run double for a 6-0 lead.
Two walks and a wild pitch by Chatwood and two errors on one play by first baseman Jordan Pacheco helped the Braves score two runs in the first. After walks to Bourn and Freddie Freeman, Bourn scored from third on a wild pitch. Prado hit a sharp grounder off Chatwood’s left leg. Pacheco couldn’t handle Chatwood’s throw to first base, and Pacheco then made a wild throw to third base for another error, allowing Freeman to score.
Prado was awarded a hit on the play in a scoring change after the game.
A throwing error by shortstop Paul Janish helped the Rockies score an unearned run in the seventh inning, the first run allowed by Medlen since Aug. 11.
Carlos Gonzalez singled and scored from first when Janish dove for Pacheco’s grounder and threw wild to second base for an error. Pacheco advanced to third on his single and Janish’s error, but Medlen struck out Tyler Colvin and Chris Nelson to end the inning.
Medlen’s streak of scoreless innings was the longest for a Braves pitcher since Maddux did not allow a run in 39 1-3 consecutive innings from Sept. 2-28, 2000.
Prado made his second straight start at second base. Gonzalez has benched All-Star Dan Uggla, who is hitting only .208.
NOTES: Pacheco has a 12-game hitting streak. ... Medlen’s previous career high was nine strikeouts. ... RHP Randall Delgado, recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett, will pitch out of the Braves’ bullpen. The Braves announced after the game RHPs Julio Teheran and Cory Gearrin will join the team on Tuesday. ... C Brian McCann, who had a cortisone shot in his right shoulder after Saturday’s game, missed his second straight start. ... Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki, on the 15-day DL with a groin injury, played as a DH on Monday with Triple-A Colorado Springs and is scheduled to play shortstop with Double-A Tulsa Wednesday and Thursday. ... Braves RHP Tommy Hanson will try for his 13th win against Colorado LHP Drew Pomeranz (1-8) on Tuesday night.