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Braves Jurrjens opens strong
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ATLANTA — Jair Jurrjens hasn’t been around long enough for Braves fans to know a lot about him. But based on the rousing applause they provided when he exited Wednesday night’s game at Turner Field, they like what they’ve seen so far.
While Jurrjens received a standing ovation at the conclusion of his Atlanta debut, the Braves gained their first win of the season with assistance from a number of contributors. By the time they’d completed this 10-2 victory over the Pirates, they’d seen Chipper Jones turn a pivotal double play, Martin Prado prove to be an effective catalyst and Mark Teixeira enjoy his first home run trot of the season.
“To finally get one where we could breathe easy in the ninth was nice,” said Teixeira, whose two-run homer keyed the seven-run eighth that provided plenty of insurance for the Braves, who had dropped one-run decisions in their first two games of the season.
With Kelly Johnson nursing a sore right knee, Prado took advantage of an opportunity to prove he can contribute in the leadoff role. His first-inning leadoff triple provided Jurrjens an early lead that he’d savor and preserve. In his first career start as a Brave, the 22-year-old right-hander worked 5 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs and seven hits.
“He’s 22-years-old, and when he’s on the mound, you’d think he was a 10-year veteran,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said. “He was phenomenal tonight.”
Jurrjens, who was acquired from the Tigers in October, showed great poise while keeping the Pirates scoreless during the first five innings. During the sixth inning, when he surrendered three hits, including a Xavier Nady two-run single, he said that he was putting too much force behind his pitches, instead of just staying in his normal flow.
“[Jurrjens] was sensational,” said Braves manager Bobby Cox, who had reason to be proud of his six relievers, who combined to not allow a run.
Jones’ first-inning RBI single and third-inning sacrifice fly off Pirates starter Tom Gorzelanny helped set the tone, and his glove allowed his teammates the chance to enjoy their first win together. The veteran third baseman’s best defensive play prevented the Pirates from doing further sixth-inning damage.
With runners at the corners and one out, right-handed reliever Jeff Bennett took over for Jurrjens and was given the assignment to protect the one-run lead. Four pitches later, he induced a Jose Bautista broken-bat chopper that took a bad hop into Jones’ chest.
Almost simultaneously, Jones gained control of the ball and was hit on the right ankle with a portion of Bautista’s broken bat. Still, he was able to fire to Prado, who promptly threw to first base to complete the inning-ending double play.
“Honestly, I never saw the bat,” Jones said. “When the bat hit me in the ankle, it was a complete surprise. That’s probably a good thing. When that ball came up and hit me in the chest, it kind of took my attention away from anything else flying at me.”
Cox called the double play, “the turning point of the game.”
Jones found some historical humor in the play. When he injured his hands in May and missed nearly three full weeks last year, the cause was a collision with Bautista, who two months later would go on the disabled list after being unintentionally spiked in the wrist by a sliding Jones.
“We’re trying to take each other out,” Jones said with a smile. “We’ve got one more day.”
With the double play completed, Jurrjens had a chance to fully enjoy the ovation he received as he walked toward the dugout during the sixth inning.
“The way they received me when I was coming out was really nice,” said Jurrjens, who threw 57 of his 88 pitches for strikes.
After Peter Moylan, Royce Ring and Chris Resop combined to keep the Pirates scoreless in the top of the eighth inning, the Braves offense enjoyed the seven-run outburst, which also included a two-run homer by Yunel Escobar.
Just before Escobar connected on his first homer of the season, Prado provided a scare when he collided with Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche while hustling through the bag on an infield single. He remained on the ground for a few tense moments before it was learned that he’d simply got the wind knocked out of him.
There’s a chance Johnson’s knee could be healthy enough for him to return to the lineup on Thursday. But as Prado showed during Wednesday’s victory, he’s quite capable of providing both solid defense at second base and consistency in the leadoff spot.
“I’m so glad he’s on this team,” Jones said. “He can help this team win a lot of ballgames, whatever his role may be.”

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