Braves silenced by five-run first inning

Five-run first inning silences Braves

NEW YORK -- As a rookie, Jair Jurrjens understands that he's required to endure a sometimes-frustrating learning process. But at the same time, he'd like to think the journey would come with more cooperation than he's recently received from his teammates.

Two weeks ago, there seemed to be a possibility that Jurrjens would be thanking his teammates after winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award. But as they continue to hurt him with shoddy support from both the offensive and defensive perspectives, it might be more appropriate for him to say, "Thanks for nothing."

Still, Jurrjens had to take some of the blame in the five-run first-inning that the Mets used to back a stellar Mike Pelfrey and claim a 6-3 win over the Braves at Shea Stadium on Wednesday night.

"We threw the ball away in the first inning and just created something sloppy, and they ended up with five runs," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "It would have been easy to put up a zero in that first inning."

Had Jurrjens not issued consecutive walks to Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran, there was a chance the Braves could have escaped the first inning without allowing a run. But once Chipper Jones and Yunel Escobar made consecutive throwing errors, there was little chance that they were going to conquer Pelfrey, who scattered three hits on the way to his first career complete game.

"He didn't throw a pitch over the plate," Jones said of Pelfrey, who was 0-2 with a 10.61 ERA in his two previous starts against the Braves this season.

While Pelfrey proved dominant, Jurrjens may have officially said goodbye to his chance to be named the NL Rookie of the Year. The 22-year-old right-hander allowed the Mets six runs -- four earned -- and six hits in five innings. He has gone 1-4 with a 4.35 ERA in his past five starts, and 3-5 with a 3.86 ERA in his past nine starts.

After enduring his 44-pitch first inning, Jurrjens needed just 44 more pitches to complete his final four innings, during which his only damage came courtesy of David Wright's fifth-inning leadoff homer.

Jurrjens, who had surrendered a total of four runs while winning his only two previous starts against the Mets this season, took a number of punches in the first inning. He needed 13 pitches to retire two of the first three batters he faced, and then endured a maddening 31-pitch stretch that was prolonged by the costly walks and errors.

"Like so many innings, things just snowball," said a visibly dejected Jones. "There's nothing you can do about it."

With Argenis Reyes on second base, courtesy of a single and stolen base, Jurrjens needed just 10 pitches to issue the consecutive walks to Delgado and Beltran. The rookie had issued a total of five walks in his three previous starts (19 innings) combined.

"I just tried to be too perfect with Delgado and Beltran," said Jurrjens, who paid for those walks when Daniel Murphy lashed a subsequent two-run single.

Fernando Tatis followed Murphy's single with a potential inning-ending chopper that Jones fielded, before making a low throw to first base that allowed two runs to cross the plate. Thanks to the official scorer generously giving Tatis a single, one of the runs was deemed earned.

Escobar complicated matters moments later when he made a high throw to Greg Norton, who was positioned at first base because Casey Kotchman was placed on the bereavement list earlier in the day. Pelfrey then capped the first-inning explosion with an RBI single.

"I didn't play well, and that bothers me," Jones said. "I can at least go home when we lose and have something to build on, confidence-wise. Tonight was just bad all the way around. I've had two or three bad games all year, and tonight was just awful."

Recently, things have simply been awful for the Braves, who have lost nine of their past 10 games. During this stretch, they have been outscored in the first inning 20-0.

Pelfrey took advantage of the early lead and limited the Braves to just three singles, two of which were provided by Gregor Blanco, who scored Jeff Francoeur with a third-inning single. Blanco's 15th bunt single began the two-run sixth inning that could have been much more productive.

After Blanco's bunt, Escobar and Jones drew consecutive walks to load the bases with nobody out. But Brian McCann, who had seven hits in his previous 16 at-bats with the bases loaded, quieted the threat by grounding into a double play. Mark Kotsay then ended the inning with a flyout to left field.

Following the McCann double play, Pelfrey needed just 29 pitches to record the final 10 outs of the game. That's two fewer pitches than Jurrjens needed to record that elusive final out of the ugly first inning.

"If they make those plays, I think I only allow two runs [in the first inning], and we might still be playing right now," Jurrjens said.

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