06/05/08 11:58 PM ET
Chipper, homers salvage Jurrjens' win
Jones has four hits, 400th homer; McCann, Escobar go deep
By Ryan Lavner / MLB.com
The young right-hander didn't think his middle-inning escapes would save Chipper Jones' 400th homer from being overshadowed by a loss.
But they did.
Jurrjens successfully navigated the sixth inning, after somehow wiggling out of the fifth, and watched from the dugout as Jones' shot padded the Braves' lead en route to a 7-5 win over the Marlins on Thursday night at Turner Field.
No one was happier to see Jones' blast off Ricky Nolasco in the sixth inning clear the right-field wall than Jurrjens, who said he was the first one to jump off the bench in celebration.
It was a struggle from the get-go for Jurrjens, who allowed a season-high 11 hits and five runs, but maintained his perfect 5-0 record at home.
"I'm bad right now with my command, and it's been a struggle in the middle of the season," said Jurrjens, who has allowed at least eight hits in his past three starts. "I've just got to keep my head up and keep working and try to help the team, at least throwing six [innings] and keep the game close."
On Jurrjens' first pitch of the night, Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez ripped a home run to right-center field. It was the fourth home run allowed by Jurrjens in his past three starts. In 10 previous starts, he had given up just one homer.
"J.J. pitched great, and it didn't look it, but they found every hole they could possibly find," McCann said.
Jurrjens maintained his composure, which catcher Brian McCann said is one of his greatest assets, and he didn't allow another run until the eventful fourth inning.
During that four-run fourth, the Marlins hit eight consecutive ground balls, three of which were run-scoring singles.
"You talk about tough luck, that's pitching with tough luck," Braves manager Bobby Cox said of the Marlins' string of grounders.
But the 22-year-old right-hander didn't beat himself up with his team trailing 5-4. Rather, with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth, Jurrjens induced Nolasco to ground into an inning-ending double play.
"Thank God it was the pitcher," Jurrjens said.
McCann hit a two-run homer after Jurrjens' escape in the fifth, which gave the Braves a 6-4 lead.
When Jurrjens' spot in the order came up in the fifth, it wouldn't have been unusual for Cox to turn to his bullpen. But knowing they were overworked and knowing the Marlins had singled Jurrjens to death, Cox let him bat. He nearly drove in a run, but second baseman Dan Uggla snared Jurrjens' drive and ended the inning.
After that, Jurrjens seemed rejuvenated, retiring the Marlins with three straight groundouts. Jones' homer later that inning ensured another win for Jurrjens, his sixth in his first season with the Braves.
"He had a great night," Cox said. "It didn't look like it, but he did."
And it was just what the Braves needed to take three of four from the Marlins, who went 3-7 on their 10-game road trip.
If not for a ninth-inning meltdown Wednesday, in which the bullpen squandered a two-run lead, the Braves could have swept the Marlins and continued their inexplicable winning ways at Turner Field. They are now 25-8 at home, third-best in the Majors.
Yunel Escobar added a home run for the Braves, who pounded out 13 hits against Marlins pitchers. None of those 13 was more impressive than Jones' solo shot in the sixth that made him just one of three switch-hitters to record at least 400 home runs in a career.
That Jones hit his home run against Nolasco shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Jones is now 9-for-14 lifetime against the Marlins right-hander with three homers. But after the game, Jones was just happy his milestone homer wasn't overshadowed by a loss.
"It would have been kind of a bummer if we lost this one," said Jones, who recorded his 29th multi-hit game of the season. "The first five innings were kind of a free-for-all and nobody could get anybody out. It was just one of those games where everything seemed to find a hole, and luckily, [we] found more holes than they did."
Jones, who went 4-for-5 with three singles, boosted his batting average to .418. He even recorded a stolen base in the eighth inning, his first of the season.
The Braves' 36-year-old slugger moved into 43rd place on the all-time home run list, one clear of Al Kaline and Andres Galarraga. His 399th homer on Tuesday broke him out of a tie with Braves great Dale Murphy.
"It was just a huge monkey off my back to get a hold of one and know it was going out and enjoy the moment," Jones said.
Ryan Lavner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.