BY GEORGE RICHARDS
The Marlins knew Atlanta's Kris Medlen was the hottest thing going on the mound these days as the 26-year-old righty has been mowing down opponents for some time now.
Miami didn't offer much resistance to Medlen's continued dominance.
Medlen kept rolling right along on Wednesday, pitching eight shutout innings as the Braves breezed by the host Marlins 3-0 to stay within sight of the Nationals in the NL East.
The Marlins, shutout for the 16th time this season, ended their second-to-last homestand of the year by going 3-3 against the Reds and Braves.
Miami hits the road for the final time in the 2012 campaign as it visits the Mets and Atlanta before returning for one more six-game home set at Marlins Park to mercifully close the book on a strange and disappointing season.
"It's hard to believe we're not going on the road fighting in the pennant race,'' manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I think when we built this ballclub, we thought these last games were going to be very fun. And the bottom line is we're not where we want. It's unfortunate, sad and we're embarassed.''
The Marlins didn't challenge Medlen (10-1) for much of the night as the Braves scored a run in each of the first three innings against Josh Johnson (8-13). That little bit of run support was all Medlen needed to continue his hot streak.
Medlen, who missed most of last season after having Tommy John surgery, started the season in the bullpen but was put into the starting rotation in July.
Since the move, Medlen has gone 8-0 in 10 starts. Medlen has not suffered a loss in his past 26 starts dating to 2009 -- and the Braves have won each of Medlen's past 21 starts.
"He threw the crap out of the ball,'' Guillen said. "I thought we pitched well, but Medlen threw better. I think this kid, wow. He put a show on out there.''
The Braves, a virtual lock for the postseason with a large lead in the NL Wild Card race, looked like a team that needed a late September win.
After losing in 10 innings to the Marlins on Tuesday night, the Braves could ill afford another loss to Miami if they hope to catch Washington -- especially knowing the Nationals won the opener of their double-header against the Dodgers.
Michael Bourn led off the night with a double to get things going against Johnson. After moving to third, Bourn came home on a sacrifice fly by Jason Heyward.
In the second, Jose Costanza drove in Dan Uggla on a two-out single to make it 2-0 with Jose Prado coming home on a sacrifice fly in the third. The Braves may have added to their lead in the third inning if it had not been for a rookie mistake by 19-year veteran Chipper Jones.
Playing his final game in Miami, Jones apparently thought there were two outs when Bryan Petersen made a routine catch in right field on Freeman's fly ball. While Prado tagged up, Jones was racing around second. Petersen easily doubled-up Jones at first to end the inning.
"That comes with age,'' Guillen said laughing.
The game lulled after that as Johnson settled in. Although Johnson didn't have a rough night -- he put the Braves down in order in the fifth and sixth -- he was up in his pitch count as he left the game after throwing 108 pitches in six innings. Medlen, by comparison, came out of the seventh with just 88.
The efficient Medlen put the Marlins down in the seventh on just eight pitches. Medlen left after eight and handed things over to stopper Craig Kimbrel (38 saves). Jose Reyes singled to lead off the ninth (for Miami's fifth hit of the night) but failed to come home despite moving to third.
"I was all over the place early on, they were fouling balls off and getting deep in the count,'' said Johnson, who has lost six of his past eight starts. "You can't do that with [Medlen] on the mound. I was rushing a bit too much early. I slowed down, got some better pitches.''
Offensively, the Marlins didn't do a whole lot on Wednesday. Miami had runners on in the first but Greg Dobbs grounded out to end that.
Rookie catcher Rob Brantley extended his hitting streak to nine games with a one-out double in the second, yet he was stranded. In the fifth, Donovan Solano singled and moved to third by swiping a pair of bases. The Marlins failed to move him home when Gorkys Hernandez grounded out.
Petersen tried to get something going with one out in the eighth but was robbed of an extra-base hit thanks to a nice backhanded catch by Bourn in center.
Miami didn't get a baserunner aboard in the final three innings Medlen pitched.
-- Jones stepped out of the batters box and recognized the standing ovation he received when he came to the plate in the eighth inning. Jones' final at-bat in Miami was a ground out to second to end the inning. Jones was 1-for-4 against the Marlins on Wednesday.
"That was very nice by the Miami fans,'' Guillen said. "Very classy.''