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Wagner earns 400th save in Braves win
Atlanta Brvaes' Brian McCann celebrates with his teammates after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against the Detroit Tigers on Friday in Atlanta. - photo by John Bazemore

Braves vs. Tigers

When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Turner Field, Atlanta
Pitchers: Braves, RHP Kenshin Kawakami (0-9, 4.78); Tigers, RHP Max Scherzer (4-6, 5.67)
TV, radio: SportSouth; 102.9 FM

ATLANTA — Billy Wagner added a big milestone on his road to retirement.

Wagner earned his 400th save, Brian McCann gave Atlanta the lead with a fourth-inning homer and the Braves ended a three-game losing streak by beating the Detroit Tigers 3-1 on Friday night.

Wagner struck out the side in the ninth in his 16th consecutive appearance without allowing a run. He has 15 saves this season, including a string of 11 straight since his last blown opportunity.

“I don’t think you draw it up quite like that,” Wagner said. “It’s a fantasy-type situation. I got them swinging at some high pitches. I’ll take it because it doesn’t happen very often.”

The 38-year-old Wagner is on such a roll that manager Bobby Cox, also bound for retirement after the season, suggested the closer might return for 2011.

“He’s been dominating all season long, and maybe we can talk him out of retirement,” Cox said. “He’s been great.”
“No chance,” Wagner said.

Wagner plans to retire even though he has a $6.5 million option to play next season. He said he wants to spend more time with his family, who traveled to Atlanta from Virginia for the game.

“All today my kids were talking about coming to the game so they could see this, hoping I got the chance,” Wagner said.
Wagner is fifth on the career saves list and is second among left-handers behind John Franco’s 424.

McCann’s 100th career homer was one of the few mistakes made by rookie Andy Oliver (0-1) in his major league debut. The left-hander gave up five hits and two runs in six innings.

“It was exciting,” said Oliver, a second-round draft pick in 2009. “It was a lot different from what I expected. I thought I’d be more nervous than I was.

“After the first pitch, I was all right. ... The biggest thing for me was that I wasn’t walking guys.”

Detroit manager Jim Leyland said Oliver “was tremendous.”

“He did a heck of a job,” Leyland said. “He showed composure throughout. He has poise. ... He gave us a chance to win.”

Brooks Conrad added an eighth-inning homer off Eddie Bonine.

Kris Medlen (5-1), possibly pitching to protect his spot in the Braves’ rotation, gave up six hits and one run in 6 2-3 innings.

“I knew after my first at-bat he had a really good changeup,” said Detroit’s Johnny Damon, who was 0 for 3 with a walk. “The kid knows how to pitch. That’s why they’ve been winning almost every time he pitches.”

Medlen’s next scheduled start is Wednesday against Washington, but Cox said right-hander Jair Jurrjens will start that game if he doesn’t suffer a setback in his return from a hamstring injury.

If Jurrjens is healthy, Cox may choose between Medlen and winless Kenshin Kawakami for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

“I’ve just gone out and done what’s got me here, which is battle and throw strikes and compete,” Medlen said. “That’s all you can really ask from the starters.

“I like us in first place. Whatever the team and everybody feels is best for the team is what I’m going to do.”

Kawakami (0-9) may head to the bullpen after his start today.

Medlen, making his ninth start of the season, has made 20 consecutive appearances since his only loss, in relief on April 9.

The Braves, who remained one-half game ahead of the Mets in the NL East, recovered after being swept in three games at the Chicago White Sox. The Braves improved to 25-7 at home.

The Tigers, who remained one-half game behind Minnesota in the AL Central, are 14-22 on the road.

Brennan Boesch hit a run-scoring single off Medlen in the first inning. The Braves pulled even in the second when Melky Cabrera’s single drove in Yunel Escobar.

Oliver was called up from Double-A Erie on Friday. He was 6-4 with a 3.61 ERA in 14 starts for Erie. Leyland said Oliver is expected to start against Minnesota on Wednesday.
NOTES: The Tigers fell to 10-6 in interleague play. ... Conrad’s homer was his fourth of the season and second as a pinch-hitter. ... Jurrjens was with the team after making what is expected to be his final minor league rehab start with Triple-A Gwinnett on Thursday.
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