Jurrjens' gem takes Braves to within 2 of wild card
The banner in right field summed up how the Atlanta Braves feel about this final week of the season.
Jair Jurrjens pitched five-hit ball over seven innings, Chipper Jones homered and the Braves beat Florida 4-0 Monday night for their 15th win in 17 games, a stretch that has lifted them into playoff contention with six games left in the regular season.
Atlanta closed within two games of idle Colorado in the NL wild-card race and moved to four behind first-place Philadelphia in the NL East. The Phillies lost 8-2 at home to Houston.
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"We've got a chance to do it," said manager Bobby Cox, whose team hasn't made the playoffs since the last of its record 14 straight division titles in 2005. "You can't get away from it. We're watching the scoreboard every inning. But really, you can only worry about your own team."
The Braves haven't caused Cox any worries lately. They won their seventh straight, matching a season high set at the start of this run, behind another dominant performance by Jurrjens (14-10). The right-hander won his fourth in a row and has gone at least seven innings in seven straight starts, allowing only eight earned runs in 50 2-3 innings (a 1.42 ERA) during that stretch.
Peter Moylan and Rafael Soriano finished off the five-hitter with one inning apiece for Atlanta's 10th shutout of the season.
"You've got to feel somewhat confident," said Moylan, who set a team record with his 85th appearance of the season. "We've still got a long ways to go, six games to go. Anything can happen."
Moylan joined the Braves after their last playoff appearance and missed most of last season recovering from elbow surgery. The Aussie has definitely noticed a different feeling in the clubhouse and during the games as he takes part in his first playoff race.
"I've never had this much nervous adrenaline pumping from the first inning through the sixth inning," he said. "It's crazy. I guess that's why we play this game. No feeling can top it."
Florida's third loss in four games all but finished off the Marlins, who dropped 5 1/2 games behind the Rockies and can do no better than tie for the wild card. One more Florida loss or Colorado win would eliminate the Marlins.
The Braves managed just three hits but took advantage of 11 walks by the Marlins - including a career-worst eight by starter Anibal Sanchez (3-8).
"I never walked that many, ever," he said. "I don't know what happened."
Sanchez walked the first three Atlanta hitters, throwing only two strikes, and wound up trailing 2-0 without giving up a hit. Brian McCann drove in a run with a bases-loaded grounder to first, and Garret Anderson followed with a sacrifice fly.
"The way Jurrjens was pitching, and three walks, we had no chance to win," catcher John Baker said.
Florida had its bullpen throwing just 15 pitches into the game, though Sanchez managed to hang around for five innings. He allowed only two hits, one of them a towering shot by Jones in the third that struck the right-field foul pole about halfway up, his 18th homer of the season but just his second since Aug. 29.
Jones will need two more over the final week of a disappointing year to become the first player in baseball history to hit at least 20 homers in each of his first 15 seasons. Jones and Eddie Mathews are the only two to start their careers with 14 consecutive 20-homer seasons.
"I guess it's a pretty good time to be rounding into form, 156 games in," Jones said sarcastically. "I would be a lot more upset if I weren't contributing at this time of year. Especially with the team doing what it's doing."
Florida got its first two runners aboard in both the sixth and the seventh. Jurrjens pitched out of trouble each time before turning it over to the bullpen.