Kris Medlen’s first start as a Royal did not start out in storybook fashion. His first pitch was ripped by Manny Machado (who is pretty good, by the way) to the wall in right-center. Lorenzo Cain, as he is known to do, ran about four miles only to have the ball go into and out of his glove, off the wall and back into his glove. Seven minutes later the umpires in New York figured out what everyone else knew after the first replay and Medlen got to throw a second pitch.
After inducing a groundout, Medlen gave up a complete bomb to Adam Jones (who is pretty good, by the way). It was not a particularly bad pitch, a curve ball down, and was really more of Adam Jones being a good hitter. Funny thing about Medlen’s curveball, after that it was almost unhittable (to everyone but Jones, who would single his next time up) and the ‘out pitch’ on four of his six strikeouts.
While the reaction to Jones’ home run was predictable, because it is 2015 and we hyper-react to everything or, even better, react to the hyper-reaction by indicating how little we are reacting (get off my lawn, kids), cooler heads prevailed. Specifically, Kris Medlen had the coolest of heads.
He struck out Chris Davis, who was the only Oriole to get to a three ball count against Medlen all evening, and then struck out Clevenger to end the first and then just got silly good. It took Kris just 8 pitches to work around an infield single in the second. Fourteen to get through the third and eleven to escape the fourth allowing just one run thanks to two strikeouts and a Steve Clevenger base running vapor lock. Seven pitches got Medlen through the fifth and just eleven more to get through the sixth. After the first inning, Medlen never threw more than three balls in any inning. Hell, he even managed to get Adam Jones out once.
While repeating his delivery well, Medlen was also giving hitters a wide variation of speed:
When you combine the variation of speed with the ability to throw all four pitches for strikes, well, you saw the result.
After a seven run explosion in the bottom of the sixth, Ned Yost went to his bullpen to finish off the game even though his starter had only thrown 69 pitches. No harm with being cautious with Medlen, who had not gone more than four innings since being added to the major league roster. That is the luxury of being thirteen games up in August.
The last time Kris Medlen was a full-time starter (2013) he went six innings or more in 24 of his 31 starts and allowed three runs or less in 22 of those. This was just one start, but if the Royals have added a pitcher that in any way resembles the 2013 version of Kris Medlen to a playoff rotation that will start with Johnny Cueto. Well, folks, October just got even more exciting.