June bug continues to bite Jurrjens
Braves righty pitches well, but unable to halt personal slide
ATLANTA -- It's been 23 innings since the Braves have scored a run off Josh Beckett and more than a month since they provided Jair Jurrjens with respectable run support.
Pitted against Beckett on Friday night at Turner Field, Jurrjens seemed doomed for the prolonged frustration he encountered via a David Ortiz homer and yet another fruitless offensive effort by the Braves in their 4-1 loss to the Red Sox.
"We've got to find a way to score runs," said Braves catcher David Ross, whose ninth-inning homer spared Atlanta of its ninth shutout loss. "I don't care if Cy Young is pitching against us, we've got to do a better job of manufacturing runs."
With the Braves scoring just five runs during the past 30 innings that he's pitched, Jurrjens has every reason to feel helpless. Still, after seeing the Red Sox extend his career-long losing streak to four games, the 22-year-old right-hander attempted to handle himself in a composed and professional manner.
Only after delivering his postgame media address did Jurrjens at least allow himself to show some frustration by picking up a sock and whipping it toward a laundry cart that was situated just a few feet away.
"It's difficult," said Jurrjens, whose 2.93 ERA is soured by his 5-6 record. "It's another tough loss for us. I felt really good. I had all my pitches going early. I tried to keep the team in the game."
While allowing four runs (three earned) and seven hits in a career-high eight innings, Jurrjens exceeded his limited margin of error against Beckett, who is now 6-0 with an 0.38 ERA in his past seven starts against the Braves.
With his latest gem, the 29-year-old right-hander scattered six hits over seven scoreless innings and battled through flu-like symptoms that have weakened him all week.
"I just try to do the same thing I do every time -- just execute pitches and go pitch to pitch," Beckett said. "I don't try to go too far ahead of myself. Tonight, I made pitches when I needed to."
Beckett, who hasn't allowed a run in five of his past seven starts, didn't look as dominant as he was last weekend, when he dazzled the Braves with a five-hit, 94-pitch shutout. But he was every bit as effective, holding them hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Ortiz's fifth-inning leadoff homer broke a scoreless tie and allowed Beckett to gain some of the comfort that he lacked while pitching out of jams in the third and fourth innings. Diory Hernandez's third-inning leadoff double went unrewarded when Chipper Jones recorded the first of his two strikeouts with a runner in scoring position.
Jones, who has hit just .179 with one RBI in his past 16 games, ended the third inning and then was victimized by the first of three consecutive strikeouts that Sox reliever Hideki Okajima recorded after allowing the Braves to put runners on first and second base with nobody out in the eighth.
Casey Kotchman, who accounted for Okajima's final eighth-inning strikeout, collected three of the hits charged against Beckett. Garret Anderson and Kotchman began the bottom of the fourth with consecutive singles and then held their positions as Jeff Francoeur, Ross and Hernandez were retired in order.
"It's as good as we can hit the ball," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "It just didn't happen at the right time."
Jurrjens, who went 0-4 with a 3.68 ERA in five June starts, limited the Red Sox to three hits through the first five innings and then encountered his first taste of misfortune when Dustin Pedroia bounced a high chopper past Hernandez at short and raced to second by the time Anderson was able to grab the ball in shallow left field.
While being charged with his first balk in 54 career starts, Jurrjens allowed Pedroia to advance to third base and score on J.D. Drew's groundout. Another balk once again hurt the Braves hurler during the two-run eighth the Red Sox compiled with the benefit of two singles.
"I was trying to be too perfect," Jurrjens said. "It's always in my mind when they get a one-run lead. I try to be too perfect and try to hit the corners. I think that's when I create big innings for myself."
Along with having the benefit of facing a lineup that included a struggling Jones, Beckett didn't have to face Yunel Escobar, who has a sore right hip, or Brian McCann, who struggled through his own flu-like symptoms to deliver a pinch-hit ninth-inning double off Jonathan Papelbon.
Conversely, this meant that Jurrjens was also dealing with a depleted lineup on a night when he desperately needed to benefit from some rare run support.
"I just have to keep working and doing what I have to do," Jurrjens said.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.