Jurrjens sharp in return, Braves top Red Sox
BOSTON (AP) — Jair Jurrjens showed the skill that made him an All-Star last season — before knee problems and two months in the minors sidetracked his outstanding career.
In his first start since being called up, Atlanta’s winningest pitcher in 2011 allowed one run on three hits and shut down the hot-hitting Boston Red Sox, leading the Braves to a 4-1 win on Friday night.
“Awesome,” Jurrjens said. “That’s the only word I can come up with. Awesome. It felt great. There’s no words to describe how good I felt.”
Jurrjens, demoted to Triple-A Gwinnett on April 23 after going 0-2 with a 9.37 ERA in four starts, worked 7 2-3 innings and left after allowing an RBI double by Daniel Nava that drove in Will Middlebrooks, who led off the eighth with a double. Boston’s only other hit was a clean single to left field by Adrian Gonzalez in the first.
“We just never got him deep in an inning,” Boston manager Bobby Valentine said. “Everyone thought he looked good to hit and they were anxious to do it and just didn’t get the results.”
Jurrjens (1-2) was called up Friday and retired eight consecutive batters before Middlebrooks’ double, which followed two innings in which Jurrjens threw a total of 14 pitches. He also allowed runners on a walk and a hit batsman and struck out four.
Craig Kimbrel pitched a perfect ninth for his 21st save in 22 opportunities.
Andrelton Simmons drove in two runs for Atlanta and Jason Heyward had two doubles and a single, improving to 7 for 11 in his last three games. The Braves won their third straight game after losing seven of eight.
Boston’s five-game winning streak ended one day after it completed a three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins in which it scored 28 runs.
The start of the game was delayed 1 hour, 14 minutes by rain.
Roger Clemens sat in the first row above the Green Monster in left field. He received a subdued mixture of cheers and mostly boos when shown on the center-field scoreboard after the third inning with the words “Welcome Back Roger Clemens” on the screen. The former Red Sox pitcher was acquitted Monday on all six counts that he lied to Congress when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs.
The Braves got at least one hit in each of the seven innings pitched by Jon Lester (4-5).
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my mechanics,” Lester said. “I’m throwing the ball fine, just not getting the results.”
Jurrjens began last season 5-0 with a 1.66 ERA in six starts. By the All-Star break, he was 12-3 with a 1.87 ERA. But he struggled in the second half, going 1-3 and making two trips to the disabled list with a lingering problem in his right knee. His last appearance of the season came Aug. 30 and the knee wasn’t back at full strength when this season began.
Even at Triple-A Gwinnett, he had a 5.27 ERA in nine starts.
“I was lacking strength and going down there helped me get back to correcting my delivery and getting strength in my leg again,” Jurrjens said.
And he was much better when he returned.
“I guess it’s a little easier to pitch in the big leagues than in Triple A,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez joked. “This is the J.J. of last year, really, when he was rolling and made the All-Star team. So it’s a nice lift.”
Especially with Brandon Beachy, tied for the major-league lead with a 2.00 ERA, having season-ending Tommy John surgery on Thursday.
The Braves took a 2-0 lead in the fourth. Freddie Freeman led off with a single, took third on a double by Heyward and scored on a groundout by Matt Diaz. Heyward scored on a double by Simmons.
Atlanta made it 3-0 in the sixth when Heyward doubled, took third on a fly out to right by Diaz and scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Simmons. Freeman singled in Michael Bourn with the final run in the eighth.
NOTES: Valentine told struggling 3B Kevin Youkilis that he can expect less playing time. Rookie 3B Middlebrooks started his second straight game Friday, the first time since Youkilis came off the disabled list on May 22 that he hasn’t started two consecutive games. He is hitting .174 with no homers in June. Middlebrooks is batting .319 with eight homers and 31 RBIs in 39 games. … RHP Randall Delgado (4-7) pitches for Atlanta on Saturday night against Franklin Morales (0-1). … Atlanta is 7-1 in its last eight road games.