Jurrjens' maturity shows in Braves' win
Young starter keeps composure despite wild inning vs. Mets
NEW YORK -- Almost immediately, the Braves knew they might have something special in Jair Jurrjens. But it wasn't until Friday night at Shea Stadium that they truly came to understand the depth of the young right-hander's composure.
During the early weeks of Spring Training, Braves manager Bobby Cox began to get a sense that Jurrjens wasn't the typical 22-year-old pitcher. It was obvious that he possessed both knowledge and maturity beyond his years.
But it wasn't until Friday that Jurrjens truly proved that he could momentarily lose his composure and then impressively recapture a sense of poise that carried the Braves to a series-opening 6-3 win over the Mets.
"He's so mature, it's unreal," Cox said of Jurrjens, who was obtained in the October deal that sent Edgar Renteria to the Tigers. "He understands baseball, the game, and how it should be played. He was a great pickup."
Simply put, Jurrjens was perfect for five of the six innings that he completed in his first career start against the Mets. During that other inning, he non-verbally contested plate umpire Tim McClelland with an agitated gesture and issued four walks in consecutive fashion during a span of 24 pitches.
Yet after surrendering three runs and seeing Cox get tossed while saving him in the Mets' three-run third inning, Jurrjens was legitimately perfect. He retired each of the final 10 batters he faced and then watched four Braves relievers hold the Mets hitless to secure his third win of the season.
"He's a great kid and we love playing behind him," said first baseman Mark Teixeira, whose first-inning RBI single off Mike Pelfrey gave the Braves an early lead. "He showed his maturity today."
After Jurrjens proved he had regained his composure, Kelly Johnson continued to match his season-high four-RBI performance. His other came on April 5 against these same Mets, who have seen the Braves second baseman collect eight of his 11 RBIs this year at their expense.
Johnson's fourth-inning sacrifice fly began the comeback and his sixth-inning two-run homer off Pelfrey gave the Braves a lead they wouldn't relinquish. As for his seventh-inning RBI single, that simply provided some insurance for relievers Will Ohman, Blaine Boyer, Royce Ring and Manny Acosta as they kept the Mets scoreless.
While Jurrjens' performance might have gone unrewarded without Johnson's contributions, this evening's most impressive performance was provided by the young hurler from Curacao, who is just 12 starts into his Major League career.
Just when it seemed like Jurrjens was rolling toward a gem, he surrendered a pair of third-inning singles and then issued a two-out walk to Luis Castillo to load the bases. Before walking Castillo, he had thrown 28 of his 40 pitches for strikes.
But the Castillo walk began the span of four consecutive walks that accounted for each of the Mets' three runs. After McClelland ruled that Jurrjens had just missed on the outside corner with a 3-2 pitch to David Wright, Jurrjens spread his arms, opened his hands and stared toward the plate.
This prompted the veteran umpire to begin walking toward the mound, which obviously irritated Cox, who needed just a few words to increase his career ejections record to 136.
"[Jurrjens] never lost [his composure]," Cox said. "He was around the plate. Let's leave it at that."
After the game, Jurrjens had no harsh words for McClelland. In fact, he said that he plans to find the umpire on Saturday and apologize to him.
"It's part of the game that I need to learn," Jurrjens said. "I'm still learning each time out ... I'm just sorry for showing him up."
When asked if he thought he might have gotten squeezed even more after making the gesture, Jurrjens chose not to comment. Instead, he continued to say he had learned a lesson on a night that he actually schooled many of the Mets' hitters.
"He was perfect except for the one inning," Cox said of Jurrjens, who has pitched into the sixth inning during each of his five starts. "You can't pitch any better than that."
Adding to Jurrjens' accomplishment was the fact that he was able to show this poise while pitching in front of a crowd that might have been even rowdier than many that Shea Stadium usually welcomes.
When Jeff Francoeur was delivering his game-tying fifth-inning RBI single off the left-field wall, there was a fight on the first-base side that Braves catcher Brian McCann couldn't help but watch, while standing on second base and attempting to keep his concentration on the game.
Still, all of this rowdiness never affected Jurrjens, whose 107-pitch effort might have been even more impressive if not for the unusual third inning. But then again, without that inning, Mets fans might not understand why the Braves believe they truly have something special in this young right-hander.
"If he can pitch in this environment, with a thousand fights going on, he can pitch anywhere," Francoeur said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.