In a season full of disappointments, Juan Uribe was undoubtedly the biggest for the Los Angeles Dodgers last year — at least on the field. And no one in their clubhouse has more incentive this time around than he does.
Uribe tied a career high with four hits and drove in three runs to lead the Dodgers to a 7-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Monday night, improving their record to an NL-best 13-4.
Two of Uribe’s hits came off All-Star starter Jair Jurrjens, optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett after the game with a 9.37 ERA.
Uribe, a 12-year veteran, was limited to 77 games in 2011 because of a strained hip flexor on his left side and a lower abdominal strain. He had an RBI single in the first and a two-run single with the bases loaded in the eighth.
The third baseman came in batting .211 with one RBI in 38 at-bats over his first 11 games, and returned to the lineup Sunday after missing four games with an injured left wrist.
”I was hurt last year, but I wanted to play and show the guys I could play and help the team,” said Uribe, in the second season of a three-year, $21 million contract after helping San Francisco win the 2010 World Series. ”I’m not putting too much pressure on myself right now. For me, it was just important for us to win the game. That’s why I come to the ballpark.”
A.J. Ellis had a pair of RBI singles and Chris Capuano (2-0) pitched in and out of trouble for seven innings. The left-hander allowed a run, six hits and four walks while striking out five.
Capuano needed 27 pitches to get out of the first inning unscathed, striking out Jason Heyward on a full count with the bases loaded. He escaped another jam in the fourth, retiring leadoff man Michael Bourn on a grounder with two runners in scoring position.
”It was a battle, but luckily I had a pretty decent cutter working, and that helped me out in that last situation,” Capuano said. ”I was struggling with my command early, and I wasn’t able to get those calls on the inside of the plate to right-handers. I was just missing it and I gave up four walks, which is a high amount for me.”
Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones, who is 1 for 13 with five strikeouts against Capuano, sat this one out on the eve of his 40th birthday because of a troublesome left knee — the one he had surgery on in March to repair a torn meniscus. The seven-time All-Star announced a month ago that this will be his final season of a big league career that began in 1993 and included a batting title in 2008 — along with 11 stints on the disabled list.
Jurrjens (0-2) gave up five runs and nine hits in three-plus innings. The right-hander, who led the Braves with 13 wins last season, retired only seven of the 17 batters he faced — including Juan Rivera on a double-play grounder and Capuano on a sacrifice bunt.
It was the first time Jurrjens failed to record a strikeout in 42 starts since April 29, 2010, at St. Louis, when he departed after one inning with a strained left hamstring.
”He lives off strike one, and they didn’t let us get that,” batterymate David Ross said. ”They attacked his pitches and they didn’t let him get ahead in the count. They had a real good game plan against him and they had a lot of balls that fell in. But I don’t think he’s where he wants to be yet. I caught him his last outing and I thought he was a lot better tonight, as far as locating pitches. He’s still searching to find it.”
Ross and Dan Uggla homered for the Braves, who had won 10 of 12 after opening the season with four straight losses.
The Braves pulled off an unorthodox double play in the fifth. Matt Kemp tried to score all the way from first on Andre Ethier’s single to left-center, running through third base coach Tim Wallach’s stop sign. Left fielder Matt Diaz relayed to shortstop Jack Wilson, who threw a perfect strike to Ross for the tag on Kemp. Ross completed the double play with a snap throw to first baseman Freddie Freeman after Ethier strayed too far off the bag.
”That was exciting. It all happened so fast,” Ross said. ”Anytime you get somebody trying to run over you, you get a little amped up. A guy as big and fast as Matt Kemp running around third and trying to run you over gets your blood pumping. As soon as I turned, I saw Freddie throw his hands up and I threw it to him. It was still 5-1, but I still felt like it kept us in the ballgame for a little bit longer and within reach with our offense. So I was fired up.”
NOTES: Freeman was chosen NL player of the week for the first time in his career, wresting the honors away from Kemp, who was the first player to win the award in the first two weeks of a season since OF Tony Armas did it with Oakland in 1981. … Capuano pitched a two-hitter against the Braves with a career-high 13 strikeouts last August in a 6-0 win for the New York Mets. … Kemp and Ethier have combined for 44 RBIs, three shy of the major league record for teammates through the first 17 games of a season. Alex Rodriguez had 31 and Jason Giambi 16 in 2007 with the Yankees.