04/20/08 7:02 PM ET
Jurrjens helps send Braves to sweep
Righty fires seven innings of one-run ball in finale with Dodgers
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
While there was plenty for the Braves to appreciate after the 6-1 sweep-clinching win they claimed over the Dodgers at Turner Field on Sunday afternoon, the most encouraging development came in the form of Jurrjens, who has proven to be both wise and advanced beyond his age of 22 years.
"He definitely doesn't pitch like a rookie," said Mark Teixeira after enjoying a three-hit game that included his fourth homer of the season. "[Jurrjens] goes right after guys. I love his stuff and I love his makeup."
The Braves, who have won a season-best four consecutive games, loved watching Jurrjens limit the Dodgers to three hits and record a career-high eight strikeouts, while allowing just one run over seven innings. He was following the lead of Jeff Bennett and Chuck James, who provided strong impressions with the spot starts they made during the first two games of this series.
Without using Tim Hudson or John Smoltz, the Braves claimed their first three-game series sweep of the season and saw their three starting pitchers complete a combined 16 2/3 innings, while surrendering just two earned runs. Given a chance to pitch with leads all weekend, the injury-plagued bullpen, which remains without closer Rafael Soriano and top setup man Peter Moylan, allowed just one earned run in 10 2/3 innings.
"I'd say that was pretty much the best series we've play in three years," said Chipper Jones, who had two hits to increase his National League-best batting average to .458. "We played a pretty much perfect series."
Had Jones not exited in the sixth inning after aggravating his right quadriceps muscle, there might have some legitimate reason for the Braves to consider this past weekend "perfect." But because he should return to the lineup within the next two days, it definitely this past weekend can still be deemed "very promising."
Or at least more promising than the days leading up to it. Before beginning this current, season-best four-game winning streak, the Braves had lost six of eight games and seen two of their five projected starting pitchers suffer injuries that required stints on the disabled list.
Further solidifying the Braves' belief that they have the depth to overcome inevitable injuries to their rotation members, Jurrjens used his two-seam fastball and changeup to keep the Dodgers off-balance all afternoon. He surrendered two second-inning singles and was only damaged by Russell Martin's fourth-inning, two-out solo homer.
"I can't say enough about him," manager Bobby Cox said of Jurrjens, who was acquired from the Tigers in October. "Every outing has been really good. He's only 22 [years-old]. He's a real talent."
Just 11 starts into his career, Jurrjens already has some bragging rights against Andruw Jones, whose homecoming to Atlanta ended with him striking out three times against a kid that used to be a bat boy on one of his youth teams in their native Curacao. In his eight at-bats this weekend, Jones had two hits, including a homer and five strikeouts.
During the approximate 15 years that have passed since he was the bat boy on a team that included his brother and Jones, Jurrjens has become a special talent. While he says the veteran center fielder is still the pride of Curacao, the young hurler may soon realize he too may one day claim this honor.
"I saw him last year and he's impressive," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, whose Yankees faced Jurrjens last year. "He pitches backwards. He'll throw you a fastball at any time. The thing that makes him most effective is that he can locate his changeup at any time."
Aiding Jurrjens' effort was Kelly Johnson, whose fifth-inning solo homer off Hiroki Kuroda proved to be the difference. Two innings later with a runner on first base, Johnson went behind second base to snare a sharp grounder and then was able to make a strong throw to first to beat speedy former Brave Rafael Furcal.
Blaine Boyer helped preserve Jurrjens' effort with a scoreless eighth inning that was highlighted when Cox brought his infield in with one out and Juan Pierre on third base. Jones then promptly cooperated by hitting a grounder right at shortstop Yunel Escobar, who looked Pierre back and then threw to first for the inning's second out.
While Andruw Jones is still hitting .169, Teixeira has seemingly seen some of his early-season struggles come to a close. The Braves first baseman capped his best day of the young season with a two-run homer that highlighted the four-run eighth against Dodgers right-handed reliever Scott Proctor.
Teixeira had a clutch fifth-inning single that helped decide Satuday's game and responded again on Sunday, when he went the other way with a third-inning single that allowed Johnson to score the game's first run. While hitting safely in five straight games, the first baseman has raised his batting average from .196 to .250.
"He's getting big hits too," Chipper Jones said. "He's not just hitting the ball out of the ballpark."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.