One run was plenty for Jair Jurrjens, who tamed the St. Louis Cardinals‘ offense.
The 23-year-old right-hander worked eight scoreless innings, overcoming another light offensive showing behind him in the Atlanta Braves‘ 1-0 victory on Friday night. He’s allowed two or fewer runs in 10 of his last 12 starts, but is only 5-3 in that stretch.
“Against this team, one mistake can cost the game,” Jurrjens said. “I was challenging them the whole game, just challenging the hitters and getting ahead.”
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Albert Pujols had a forgettable game for St. Louis with the third two-error game of his career at first base while going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and no balls out of the infield against the 23-year-old right-hander. The NL Central leaders lost for the first time in 17 games on a day when the second-place Cubs also won, shaving their formidable lead to 10 1/2 games.
Manager Tony La Russa preferred to talk about Pujols’ nice defensive play to save a run in the seventh.
“Isn’t he the guy that made the play on the guy at the plate?” La Russa said. “Albert did not have a bad defensive day, in any way, shape or form.”
Jurrjens (11-10) allowed six hits while striking out seven with one walk, matching his career best for innings and helping end Joel Pineiro‘s eight-game winning streak dating to July 3. The Cardinals were 3 for 10 with runners in scoring position against Jurrjens, yet came up empty.
“He keeps us in every ballgame and he’s just been dominant all year,” catcher Brian McCann said. “Tonight might have been his best performance of the year.”
Cardinals hitters certainly were impressed.
“He’s got a bright future,” Matt Holliday said. “Or, he’s pretty much in his future.”
Jurrjens had been 0-2 in his last three starts despite a 2.49 ERA while working at least seven innings in all three games because the Braves lost 3-1, 3-2 and 2-1 in 12 innings. Rafael Soriano worked the ninth for his 23rd save in 27 chances.
Pineiro (14-10) had been 8-0 with a 3.09 ERA in 12 starts since his last loss since June 28 against the Twins. He allowed one run on five hits in seven innings while benefiting from double play balls to end the second, third and fourth, matching his season high with seven strikeouts and walking two.
“They’ve picked me up a couple of times,” Pineiro said. “Today was just one of those days.”
Pujols pulled his foot off the bag on Omar Infante‘s run-scoring groundout in the second for his first error. His second error came two at-bats later when he flubbed a barehand stop on Jurrjens’ roller down the line leading off the third.
Pujols had a pair of two-error games at first base in a stretch of six days in June 2007 and has five two-error games for his career, including two at third base as a rookie in 2001.
The Cardinals had a tough luck sixth after Pujols reached on third baseman Martin Prado‘s fielding error and Holliday was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Pujols was struck by Ludwick’s grounder while attempting to shield Escobar’s view of the ball at shortstop for the first out, Holliday was out on a close play at the plate on Church’s 10th assist of the season and Prado made a diving stop on Mark DeRosa‘s smash then made the throw for the third out.
Holliday thought he was safe and replays appeared to back him up with catcher Brian McCann tagging him on the elbow. Holliday watched replays, too.
“It was obviously a close play, but I thought I was clearly on the plate when he tagged me,” Holliday said. “It’s a close play, a judgment call. You win some and lose some.”
It was the Braves‘ turn to be frustrated in the seventh after loading the bases with one out. Pujols made a nice stop of pinch hitter Chipper Jones‘ smash and threw home for a forceout as Pineiro, who had been on the way to first, had to hit the deck. Then Jurrjens took a called third strike.
Jones is in a 9 for 78 slump. … Holliday is 7 for 12 with three doubles and four RBIs against Jurrjens. … Attendance of 43,984 was the Cardinals‘ 27th sellout. … Yunel Escobar had two hits and leads the Braves with 40 multihit games.