Walks doom Jurrjens, Braves in duel
Three free passes lead to runs in close loss to Cards
ATLANTA -- Peter Moylan believes it's time to stop using his early return from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery as an excuse for his occasional control problems. As for Jair Jurrjens, he has nobody but his own offense to blame for the fact that he hasn't been credited with the win in any of his past three starts.
While holding the mighty Albert Pujols in check at Turner Field on Monday night, the Braves were undone by a couple of costly walks and a slumbering lineup that is currently missing an All-Star catcher and a consistent leadoff catalyst.
After issuing a frustrating seventh-inning walk against St. Louis starter Pineiro, Moylan allowed Rick Ankiel to make the second of his two RBI singles the decisive blow in the 3-2 win the Cardinals claimed over a Braves team that has scored two runs or fewer in seven of its past 11 games.
"We continue to waste [Jurrjens'] good outings with bad offense," Chipper Jones said. "Until we start doing something at the top, we're going to continue to struggle."
With the top three hitters in his lineup combining for two hits in 10 at-bats, Atlanta manager Bobby Cox was forced to watch Jurrjens suffer another tough-luck loss. The Braves have totaled three runs in his past four starts, and just one of those runs scored while he was the pitcher of record.
"Baseball is a crazy game," said Jurrjens, whose two wins came during his least impressive outings of the year. "You throw bad and your team scores a lot of runs. You throw good and they don't score a lot of runs."
Adding to the zaniness of this latest loss was the fact that the Braves limited Pujols to an inconsequential fifth-inning single and handed him his first multi-strikeout game since Aug. 31. But with assistance from the Atlanta pitching staff, St. Louis provided Ankiel the opportunity to take advantage of costly walks.
After getting ahead of Pineiro with a 1-2 count, Moylan seemingly lost his concentration and issued a one-out walk that put the Cardinals starter in position to score on Ankiel's decisive single that bounced through the infield and made its way into center field.
"There's nothing worse than walking the pitcher," Moylan said. "That's the worst thing that you can do in this game."
When each of the first five batters he faced this year scored, there was reason to understand why Moylan was encountering inconsistent control while pitching approximately 11 months removed from the elbow ligament transplant surgical procedure. But entering Monday, he had allowed just one run in his previous seven appearances.
"How long can you use that as an excuse?" Moylan said. "I feel the same every time I go out there. I want to get to the point, not so much with my arm, but with my head, where I can trust that the ball is going to go where I want it to."
Like Moylan may have assumed he'd gained the seventh inning's second out after getting ahead of Pineiro, Jurrjens admitted that he might have also lost his concentration after recording consecutive strikeouts of Ankiel and Pujols in the first inning.
Following Pujols' first strikeout against the Braves in a span of 26 at-bats, Ryan Ludwick and Chris Duncan followed with consecutive singles to score Skip Schumaker, who had started the game with a single.
"The first couple of innings didn't go like I wanted," said Jurrjens, who threw 48 of his 99 pitches in the first two innings. "I was trying to be too perfect, and that cost me on the two-out hit by Duncan."
Jurrjens, who surrendered six hits -- all singles -- and allowed two earned runs in six innings, temporarily lost his aggression while issuing his only walks of the evening in the second inning. This set the stage for Ankiel to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead with the first of his RBI singles.
"I think I was trying to be too careful and not trusting my fastball," Jurrjens said.
While facing a lineup without Brian McCann, who is on the disabled list because of blurred vision in his left eye, Pineiro allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings and notched his fourth consecutive win. McCann's backup, David Ross, doubled and scored when Casey Kotchman delivered the first of his two doubles in the second inning.
After his seventh-inning double put Jones in position to score on Jeff Francoeur's sacrifice fly, Kotchman flew out with the bases loaded in the eighth inning.
"We had the right guy up there," Cox said. "We had our chances, but we just didn't come through."
McCann's absence has played a large role in the recent offensive struggles. But the fact that Kelly Johnson has managed just four hits in his past 39 at-bats in the leadoff role has also had a definite effect.
"Tonight, it felt like we were constantly fighting an uphill battle," Jones said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.