Coming off his first loss of the season, Jair Jurrjens got back to his winning ways with a dominating performance against the Pirates, shutting out Pittsburgh in his 7.2 innings of work en route to a 2-0 Atlanta win over Pittsburgh.
Jurrjens was on from the start, throwing first pitch strikes to 12 of the first 15 batters he faced. For the game, he threw 97 pitches, 71 for strikes while facing 29 total batters, showing just how incredibly efficient he was. He also moved into the lead of the National League ERA race in front of Josh Johnson as he lowered his ERA to 1.56.
With Jurrjens dealing on the mound, Atlanta got just enough offense to win, starting in the second inning.
Alex Gonzalez hit a one-out single off Pirates starter Charlie Morton, and advanced to third on a single from Freddie Freeman.
Brooks Conrad, starting in place of Dan Uggla, hit a sacrifice fly to right field that was deep enough to score Gonzalez, giving the Braves a 1-0 lead.
The rest after the jump...
The Braves flashed some leather in the bottom of the second inning, and it came from Eric Hinske. The Pirates Neil Walker led off the inning and hit a shallow fly ball to right field. "Big Damage" did some big damage to the ground as he laid out in a full belly flop to catch the ball for the first out. Hinske has made his fair share of spectacular plays so far this season and this one is certainly added to the list.
The best part of it may have been Jurrjens covering his mouth with his glove and laughing after seeing Hinske lay out like that.
Atlanta would finish the scoring in the third inning, as Jordan Schafer and his obnoxiously large double-flapped helmet led the inning off with a walk. Martin Prado then followed with a double to left field that allowed Schafer and his great speed to come all the way around from first to score. That gave the Braves a 2-0 lead.
The Braves had a chance to add to their lead in the fifth inning, but a Pirates fan cost the Braves a run. After Jurrjens led off with a single and Jordan Schafer lined out, Martin Prado grounded into a force out, getting Jurrjens out at second and putting Prado at first. Chipper Jones then rocketed a ball to center field, where a Pirates fan reached out over the wall and caught the ball with his hat. The ball fell out of his hat and back onto the field, and the play was reviewed.
Prado was well on his way to third and would have easily scored, but the umnpires ruled Chipper's hit fan interference and a ground-rule double.
That gave Chipper second base, but they also held up Prado at third, a tough break for Atlanta. Brian McCann grounded out to end the inning and the threat.
The Pirates mounted their only real threat of the night in the sixth, as Jose Tabata led off the inning with a single. Jurrjens then issued his only walk of the game to Garrett Jones to put runners on first and second with no outs. Jurrjens would rally though, and got Neil Walker to pop out and coaxed a double-play ball from Lyle Overbay to get out of the jam,
Pirates starter Charlie Morton didn't pitch badly, but wasn't good enough to beat his old team. He threw seven innings, giving up the two earned runs, while scattering seven hits and three walks to go with four strikeouts.
Pittsburgh finally managed to knock Jurrjens out of the game in the eighth with a two-out single from Tabata. Jonny Venters came in and was filthy as usual, striking out former Brave Matt Diaz..
It's worth noting that Dan Uggla was brought in as a "defensive replacement" in the eighth inning, which surely has to be the first time that title has been used on him in his career.
Craig Kimbrel came in for the save in the ninth, and looked dominant, finally getting a 1-2-3 inning. Kimbrel struck out Neil Walker, then got a ground-ball to defensive replacement Uggla for the second out. Ryan Doumit would fall victim to Kimbrel as well, striking out to end the game and earn him his 13th save.
With most of the road-trip being filled with dramatic, extra-inning games that have been frustrating and tough to watch, it was nice to see the Braves cruise to a nice easy victory.
The Braves conclude the two-game series with the finale starting at 12:35 EDT as Mike Minor goes against James McDonald.