Jurrjens spins a gem as Braves win
Young righty shuts out Jays over eight innings of work
TORONTO -- If Braves manager Bobby Cox had known Jair Jurrjens was going to make it this easy, he wouldn't have worried so much about the fact that he was once again constructing a lineup card that was absent of both Chipper Jones and Yunel Escobar.
While Jones and Escobar were resting their injuries on Friday night, Jurrjens and Mark Teixeira were providing all of the damage the Braves would need to claim a 4-0 win over the Blue Jays.
With Teixeira prolonging his recent power barrage with his fifth homer in his past five games, Jurrjens was afforded all the support he needed to fortify the strongest start of his young career. The 22-year-old hurler surrendered three hits and kept the Blue Jays scoreless over a career-high eight innings.
"I don't think you can pitch better than that," Cox said. "That was one of the best games I've seen pitched, ever."
That's obviously high praise from a guy, who used to send Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz to the mound in succession on a daily basis for nearly a decade. But when you consider that the Blue Jays put a total of three balls in the outfield -- two flyouts and a single -- through the first seven innings, it's better to understand this praise had at least some justification.
This success didn't exactly come as a total surprise. Since turning his ankle while leaving Wrigley Field on June 10 and missing his start the next night, Jurrjens has made three starts and worked 21 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run.
"JJ [Jurrjens] was awesome tonight," said the suddenly red-hot Teixeira. "He didn't need much help. He was incredible."
Such adjectives could have just as easily been used to describe Teixeira's sensational week. He prolonged his success during this series opener with a two-run first-inning homer off Blue Jays starter Dustin McGowan and a third-inning RBI double.
In his past five games, Teixeira has hit .444 with five homers and nine RBIs. During the 18 games that preceded this surge, the switch-hitting first baseman batted .227 with one homer and nine RBIs. At the same time, he provided the reminder that he's always heated up as the season progresses.
"Home runs come in bunches for me," said Teixeira, who has hit three homers and collected six RBIs in his past five games at Rogers Centre. "I'm hoping to keep this going."
Along with hitting his 15th homer of the season, Teixeira also took advantage of the action Jurrjens was producing with his sinking two-seam fastball. The Gold Glove first baseman recorded four unassisted groundouts in the first four innings and helped start a nifty sixth-inning double play with shortstop Brent Lillibridge.
"I know he made at least three great plays at first base," Cox said. "He's starting to get his swing going, too."
Because of Teixeira and Jurrjens, Cox left Rogers Centre much more relaxed than he'd been approximately three hours before the start of this series opener. Since Jones (right quad), Escobar (left shoulder) and Omar Infante (right hamstring) were all unavailable, he essentially entered the game without any bench players and a lineup that included Teixeira as the only player with a salary of at least $1 million.
"I never even thought about that," Teixeira said with a surprised smile. "That's not something you see too often."
But as Alex Rios, Vernon Wells and Scott Rolen will attest, their hefty paychecks were no defense against an impressive hurler, who was making just his 23rd career start.
"He didn't really make too many mistakes," Wells said. "He was living on the edges, living down in the zone. When you couple that with movement and changing speeds, that's going to happen from time to time. He did his job and kept us off-balance."
Jurrjens, whose eight wins lead all Major League rookies, was perfect until Matt Stairs bounced a single through the middle of the infield with one out in the fifth inning. After surrendering Stairs' single and issuing a one-out, sixth-inning walk to Gregg Zaun, the Braves young hurler induced inning-ending double-play groundouts. Until surrendering Rios' two-out, seventh-inning infield single, Jurrjens had faced the minimum number of batters. Before ending his 104-pitch night with a scoreless eighth inning, he surrendered a one-out single to Rolen.
"I was just hitting my spots and pitching to contact," said Jurrjens, who had just three strikeouts. "I didn't have my best fastball. I was just trying to help the team and minimize my pitches."
When Jurrjens exited the eighth inning, Cox made the decision to pull his young pitcher and use Mike Gonzalez in the ninth. Gonzalez responded with a perfect ninth to convert his third consecutive save opportunity since ending a year-long stint on the disabled list last week.
Cox said he at least thought about giving Jurrjens a chance to toss his first career complete game and shutout.
"He's a great athlete and some sort of competitor," Cox said. "He wanted to go back out there and finish it."
After starting this season by allowing three earned runs or fewer and pitching at least five innings in 10 of his first 11 starts, Jurrjens provided indication that he might be special. Then he encountered a three-start stretch, during which he totaled 15 innings, allowed 28 hits and posted an 8.40 ERA.
But since getting a breather after turning his ankle on the Wrigley Field staircase, the young kid has regained his form and been even better than he was before.
"All of the others [before Friday] I'd put on the great side," Cox said. "This was on the excellent side."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.