The Atlanta Braves have powered their way to their largest division lead in a decade.
Perhaps the NL East leaders can carry over some of that offense to a Kris Medlen start.The right-hander will try to guide the visiting Braves to an eighth consecutive victory in Friday night's series opener against the slumping Philadelphia Phillies.Led by two homers and five RBIs from Justin Upton and a seventh consecutive multi-hit game from NL batting leader Chris Johnson, Atlanta (64-45) capped a perfect seven-game homestand with Thursday's 11-2 victory over Colorado. The Braves moved 11 1/2 games in front of idle Washington, a first-place cushion they last had on Sept. 21, 2003."I feel like this is the best I've seen us play consecutively so far," shortstop Andrelton Simmons said.While Atlanta is batting .336 with 7.3 runs per game since its last defeat, it hasn't been doing much to back Medlen (7-10, 3.74 ERA), who has a team-low 3.53 run-support average.The Braves had scored three total runs in Medlen's previous three starts -- all losses -- before a 5-2 win over St. Louis on Sunday when he threw six innings of two-run ball.Medlen hasn't been at his best in two starts against the Phillies (50-58) this season, compiling a 6.97 ERA while losing each time.The Braves, who plated three total runs in those starts, have scored seven times in three losses to Philadelphia this season compared to 29 in their three wins.The Phillies moved a game above .500 by winning their first contest after the All-Star break, but they're 1-10 since after Thursday's 2-1 loss to San Francisco. Jonathan Papelbon blew his sixth save in his last 13 chances, and Philadelphia wasted a bases-loaded, no-out chance in the bottom half of the ninth."I want to preserve these wins for the starters," Papelbon said. "Some nights you just scratch your head."The Phillies will try to regroup with Ethan Martin making his major league debut. The 24-year-old right-hander, 11-5 with a 4.12 ERA at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, is taking the spot of Cliff Lee (sore neck)."I want to come up here and show what I got and prove to them that I can be here," Martin, who was acquired in last season's deal that sent Shane Victorino to the Dodgers, told the Phillies' official website. "If Cliff comes back and it's my time to go back down, I want to show to them and put it in the back of their heads whenever they need somebody else."The Athens, Ga., native has some extra motivation by facing the team he grew up supporting."I don't really think it's set in yet," Martin said. "Hopefully, it doesn't until afterward. But, we'll go from there, walk out on the mound and see how it goes."It hasn't gone well for pitchers facing Johnson, who can tie a Braves record with an eighth consecutive multi-hit game. The last to accomplish this feat was Hank Aaron from September 9-17, 1959, when the team was based in Milwaukee.Johnson, who has hit safely in 10 straight to raise his batting average to .346, is 6 for 19 with a homer off Phillies pitching in 2013.The Braves dropped two of three in their only visit to Philadelphia this season from July 5-7.