Jurrjens struggles early in Braves loss
Starter yields four runs in first two innings; McLouth homers
CHICAGO -- On their way to sweeping the Phillies last week, the Braves gifted Jair Jurrjens with an 11-run explosion. Now less than a week later, that rare contribution seems like a distant memory to the team and still-maturing young pitcher.
While the offensive contributions once again proved minimal at Wrigley Field on Monday night, Jurrjens had only himself to blame for the 4-2 win the Cubs claimed over the Braves, who fought hard to find the momentum created by that five-game winning streak they possessed just three days ago.
On the way to suffering a third consecutive loss and falling five games behind the first-place Phillies in the National League East race, the Braves saw the Cubs gain an early lead with Derrek Lee's two-run first-inning homer and then add two more runs during a two-out second-inning rally that left Jurrjens feeling justifiably frustrated.
"It was a tough, tough game," Jurrjens said. "I wish I could take back those two innings, especially the pitch to Lee."
Jurrjens' 3-2 slider to Lee certainly proved harmful when the veteran first baseman deposited it into the bleacher seats in left-center field. But just as costly was the 1-1 fastball that Cubs starter Randy Wells deposited into left field for a second consecutive two-out single in the second inning.
"I forgot that he's a good hitter and that he used to be a position player," Jurrjens said of Wells, a former Minor League catcher who has four hits in 22 career at-bats.
With his single being followed by a Kosuke Fukudome RBI double and Ryan Theriot RBI infield single, Wells received all the support he needed to gain a win and avenge the tough-luck no-decision he received when he held the Braves hitless for 6 2/3 innings at Turner Field on June 2.
"Wells, I thought he was a lot better at our place," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He was completely unhittable there, and tonight, he was almost that again."
While Wells was able to limit the Braves to two runs and seven hits over six innings, Jurrjens found himself allowing four earned runs and seven hits in six innings. Making the resulting loss even more frustrating was the fact that he was able to right himself in time to retire 10 of the final 11 batters that he faced.
"It was just one of those games where I got behind and I got hit," said Jurrjens, who is 2-4 with a 3.70 ERA in his past seven starts.
This marked just the third time in 18 starts this season that Jurrjens was charged with at least four earned runs. Lee's homer was also the third that the 23-year-old right-hander has allowed in a span of four starts. He had surrendered a total of just four homers in his first 14 starts this year.
Because of a slight television delay, the game started approximately four minutes late. Jurrjens said this delay caused him to be "a little cold and rusty" during the first inning. But at the same time, he admitted that he could only blame himself for hanging the slider to Lee.
"I think he made a mistake there," Lee said. "He was trying to go down and away and he kind of left it up and middle and I was able to get a good swing on it."
Braves center fielder Nate McLouth, who was acquired one day after Wells flirted with history in Atlanta last month, aided Jurrjens with a three-hit night that was highlighted with a fifth-inning leadoff homer. McLouth added a two-out, ninth-inning single that went unrewarded when the previously red-hot Martin Prado grounded out to end the game.
Prado, who was named the National League's Player of the Week on Monday afternoon, went hitless in five at-bats. Further hampering the Braves was the fact that Matt Diaz also lost the hot bat that had helped him hit .619 over the previous six games.
Taking advantage of the consecutive singles Chipper Jones and Brian McCann provided in the fourth inning, Yunel Escobar provided the Braves their first run with an RBI single. Two batters later, with the bases loaded and just one out, Diaz struck out to quiet a threat that was killed when Jurrjens followed with a groundout.
"It's good to see Nate swinging the bat well," Diaz said. "But we just have to put it all together offensively."
Before benefiting from last week's 11-run uprising against the Phillies, Jurrjens had seen the Braves total five runs during the 30 innings that he'd previously pitched. Thus there was reason for him to feel frustrated about the fact that he received just two runs of support five days later.
But as he exited Wrigley Field, Jurrjens wasn't thinking about the lack of runs he was provided. Instead, he was forced to deal with the consequences of the ones he allowed.
"JJ was terrific," Cox said. "He just made a real bad pitch to Derrek Lee. He pitched four great innings to keep us in it, too."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.