MIAMI (AP) — Even when Kris Medlen felt out of sorts in the early going, he protected a lead for the Atlanta Braves. And when the right-hander finally found his groove, outs came quickly.
Medlen allowed only an unearned run in seven innings Tuesday night, and the Braves earned their fifth consecutive victory by beating the punchless Miami Marlins 3-2.
Medlen, who went 10-1 last year but lost his first start this season, retired the final 10 batters he faced and needed only 24 pitches in his last three innings.
“Once the adrenaline wore off, I was able to calm down and make some better pitches,” he said. “That felt like the old me. I was just mixing in pitches better and executing better. I felt like I was all over the place the first couple of innings.”
The Braves improved to 7-1, their best start since 2007. The Marlins fell to 1-7 with their fourth consecutive defeat, and they’re off to their worst start since the 1998 team began the season 1-11.
Atlanta’s Evan Gattis hit his second home run, and Justin Upton doubled home a run.
Craig Kimbrel pitched around a leadoff walk in the ninth for his fourth save in as many chances to complete a four-hitter. Atlanta has allowed six hits and two runs in the first two games of the series.
Announced attendance was 14,222, the smallest crowd at Marlins Park since it opened a year ago, and a reflection of fan disenchantment following the team’s offseason payroll purge.
Even with a lean budget, owner Jeffrey Loria isn’t getting much bang for his buck. In eight games the Marlins have scored 16 runs, with seven coming in their lone win.
“When you are not winning, you are going to get frustrated,” said Placido Polanco, who had two of Miami’s hits. “We’re all here to win, and we’re not winning right now. We just have to put a couple of hits together and start scoring runs.”
Against Medlen (1-1), the Marlins went 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position, and they’re batting .175 in those situations. Giancarlo Stanton, the NL slugging leader last year, went 0 for 3 to drop his average to .154.
The Marlins again lost despite some solid pitching, with Wade LeBlanc (0-2) allowing two runs in six innings. Miami starters are 1-5 despite an ERA of 2.56.
“Unfortunately, when you run into a guy like Medlen, you have to keep the game closer than that,” LeBlanc said.
Medlen, who relies on pinpoint control, allowed three hits and walked two.
“I can’t be too mad about the walks,” he said. “I don’t play fantasy baseball. I wouldn’t be on my own team if I did, and I don’t care. We won, so we’re good.”
Center fielder B.J. Upton dropped Greg Dobbs’ fly leading off the second inning, which led to Miami’s first run. Rob Brantly drove it home with a sacrifice fly.
Medlen gave up a leadoff double to Polanco in the fourth but escaped with three groundouts. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons saved a run when he made a backhand grab of Donovan Solano’s sharp grounder with a runner at third and threw out the batter.
That was Miami’s last threat against Medlen.
“He got sharper,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “His stuff was moving everywhere. He did a fantastic job.”
Medlen has allowed no runs over 19 innings in five games at Marlins Park.
The Braves scored in the first when Simmons singled and Gattis hit a two-out homer. Gattis is batting .368 in his rookie season.
“It has been awesome,” he said. “It has been a dream come true. It has been amazing. It has been everything I’ve wanted it to be. I’m still pinching myself.”
Justin Upton had an RBI double in the eighth, which left his average at .400 and his slugging percentage at 1.100.
Miami trailed 3-1 when Stanton was intentionally walked with one on and two out in the eighth inning, even though the move put the potential tying run on base. Polanco followed with an RBI single, but Dobbs grounded out to end the inning.
The Marlins’ offensive ineptitude reached a peak in the ninth. After a leadoff walk, Brantly tried to bunt and popped into a double play.
NOTES: B.J. Upton went hitless and is batting .103. … Slumping Braves RF Jason Heyward (.083) was given the night off. … The retractable roof was open for the second night in a row. … Justin Upton went 0 for 3 against LeBlanc and is 2 for 19 lifetime vs. the left-hander. … LHP Mike Minor, scheduled to start Wednesday for Atlanta, has a 2.09 ERA in 15 starts since last year’s All-Star break.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.