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Braves back sharp Jurrjens with four homers

Braves back sharp Jurrjens with four homers

Braves back sharp Jurrjens with four homers
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Jair Jurrjens produced his first strong start of the year and Dan Uggla sparked a power barrage that led the Braves to an 11-1 win over a split-squad Astros team at Champion Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Uggla's two-run homer in the first inning marked the beginning of the frustrations endured by Astros starter Zach Duke, who was charged with 10 earned runs and eight hits in 3 1/3 innings. The Houston left-hander's audition for the fifth spot in the rotation was also marred by a Freddie Freeman two-run home run and Brian McCann's three-run homer. Freeman added a solo shot in the seventh.

With a pair of singles, Jurrjens entered the sixth having recorded one more hit than he had allowed. But after giving up a Travis Buck double and a Matt Downs RBI single with two outs in the sixth, he was unable to complete a scoreless effort. Still, the 26-year-old right-hander impressed by surrendering three hits and one run in six innings.

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Uggla's sixth home run served as the only damage incurred by Duke in the first two innings. Duke's struggles in the five-run third came after he issued a one-out walk to former Astros center fielder Michael Bourn. Two batters later, McCann hit his three-run shot. Uggla followed with a walk and jogged home on Freeman's two-run homer.

Marwin Gonzalez's third-inning infield single served as the only hit Jurrjens allowed in the first five innings. Looking nothing like he had while posting a 10.13 ERA in his first four starts, he recorded seven strikeouts, providing reason to believe he is rounding into shape as the season nears.

Up next: The Braves will enjoy a scheduled off-day Monday, then send Brandon Beachy to the mound to start against the Mets on Tuesday at 1:10 p.m. ET in Port St. Lucie. Beachy has been working to be more aggressive to avoid the high pitch counts that led to many early exits last year.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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