Miscues hurt Jurrjens' cause vs. Giants
Starter charged with three earned runs in Braves' loss
SAN FRANCISCO -- For one of the few times since 1992, Braves manager Bobby Cox had an opportunity to manage a game in San Francisco without having to worry about Barry Bonds. But all of the uneasiness that had been created by the former Giants slugger was still present because of the defensive woes of his middle infielders.
Multiple defensive miscues by shortstop Yunel Escobar and second baseman Kelly Johnson ruined Jair Jurrjens' determined effort and allowed the Giants to claim a 4-2 win over the Braves at AT&T Park on Monday night.
"It just stinks because [Jurrjens] has been so good and we have to play better than that behind him," Johnson said. "We just have to start playing better baseball."
While he might have not had his best stuff, Jurrjens certainly didn't deserve to be charged with three earned runs in six innings. In fact, without the miscues committed by Johnson and Escobar, the 22-year-old rookie right-hander could have surrendered just one run, despite the fact that he gave up nine hits and issued three walks.
"I didn't have my best stuff," Jurrjens said. "I fell behind a lot of hitters and walked too many guys."
Jurrjens got in trouble when he allowed three hits -- including an Aaron Rowand RBI single -- to three of the first four batters he faced in the third inning. But he might have escaped having allowed just one run in the inning had Escobar recorded more than just one out on John Bowker's potential inning-ending grounder that scored Fred Lewis.
Escobar bobbled Bowker's grounder and made a delayed toss that prevented Johnson from turning the double play. Three innings later, the Braves shortstop's inability to catch Gregor Blanco's throw from the left-field corner prevented him from even making a throw as Giants catcher Steve Holm raced home to give the Giants and Matt Cain a 4-0 lead.
Cain, who had seen the Giants score three runs or fewer in 15 of his previous 23 starts this season, found some long-awaited fortune in the Braves miscues. The 23-year-old right-hander allowed one earned run and five hits in 6 2/3 innings.
"Cain was good tonight," Cox said. "J.J. [Jurrjens] was just as good."
Jurrjens, who had allowed just one earned run in his previous four road starts combined, was victimized in the fourth inning when Johnson allowed Randy Winn's two-out grounder to go between his legs, giving the Giants runners at first and second base.
"Off the bat, I thought it was just routine and would just take a couple of candy hops," Johnson said. "As it got closer to me, it just stayed down."
Before he could get too upset with that miscue, Johnson found himself diving to his right to stop an Ivan Ochoa grounder that could have easily resulted in an infield single that loaded the bases. But when the ball hit off the Braves second baseman's glove, it went toward the outfield grass, allowing Cain to score from second base.
"To have a ball bounce out of your glove and go 20 feet [away] is just unbelievable," Johnson said.
While it might have been unbelievable, this was just another of the plays that added to the misfortunes of Jurrjens, who certainly put himself in position to overcome some of the struggles he encountered.
"I don't know what to say," Jurrjens said. "Some days you have luck on your side and some days you don't. Tonight I didn't have any luck."
Cain, who was 1-2 with a 1.24 ERA in his previous four starts, had a shutout working until Omar Infante delivered a sixth-inning, two-out RBI single that scored Casey Kotchman, who had reached safely with a triple.
The best scoring chance for the Braves in the first four innings came when Cain issued a two-out walk to Brian McCann and then hit Kotchman with a pitch. But Infante flied out to right field and Johnson struck out looking to end the inning.
McCann, who was playing for the first time since suffering a mild concussion during a July 27 collision with Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino, was unable to deliver after Cain allowed three consecutive Braves to reach safely with two outs in the seventh inning.
Left-handed reliever Jack Taschner got McCann, who had six hits in his 12 previous at-bats with the bases loaded this season, to hit a harmless infield pop fly.
"I came up in a big situation and didn't deliver," said McCann, who said he felt strong throughout the game and wasn't worried about suffering any post-concussion symptoms throughout the rest of this season.
While Jeff Francoeur's eighth-inning RBI groundout cut the deficit to two runs, the Braves were never able to overcome the early struggles that marred Jurrjens' performance.
"I know I made my pitches when I had to make pitches," Jurrjens said. "I didn't let the game get out of hand."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.