Braves back sharp Jurrjens with four homers
Freeman rips pair, while Uggla, McCann also go deep
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jair Jurrjens produced his first strong start of the year and Dan Uggla sparked a power barrage that led the Braves to an 11-1 win over a split-squad Astros team at Champion Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Uggla's two-run homer in the first inning marked the beginning of the frustrations endured by Astros starter Zach Duke, who was charged with 10 earned runs and eight hits in 3 1/3 innings. The Houston left-hander's audition for the fifth spot in the rotation was also marred by a Freddie Freeman two-run home run and Brian McCann's three-run homer. Freeman added a solo shot in the seventh.
With a pair of singles, Jurrjens entered the sixth having recorded one more hit than he had allowed. But after giving up a Travis Buck double and a Matt Downs RBI single with two outs in the sixth, he was unable to complete a scoreless effort. Still, the 26-year-old right-hander impressed by surrendering three hits and one run in six innings.
Uggla's sixth home run served as the only damage incurred by Duke in the first two innings. Duke's struggles in the five-run third came after he issued a one-out walk to former Astros center fielder Michael Bourn. Two batters later, McCann hit his three-run shot. Uggla followed with a walk and jogged home on Freeman's two-run homer.
Marwin Gonzalez's third-inning infield single served as the only hit Jurrjens allowed in the first five innings. Looking nothing like he had while posting a 10.13 ERA in his first four starts, he recorded seven strikeouts, providing reason to believe he is rounding into shape as the season nears.
Up next: The Braves will enjoy a scheduled off-day Monday, then send Brandon Beachy to the mound to start against the Mets on Tuesday at 1:10 p.m. ET in Port St. Lucie. Beachy has been working to be more aggressive to avoid the high pitch counts that led to many early exits last year.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.