Run support absent as Braves fall

Run support absent as Braves fall

ATLANTA -- With his presence on the mound essentially serving as a tranquilizer to the Braves offense throughout this season, Jair Jurrjens certainly didn't need to watch Craig Monroe's hustle take advantage of yet another mental mistake committed by Yunel Escobar.

As the Braves lamented the fact that their three-game winning streak had been snapped with a 3-2 loss to the Pirates at Turner Field on Wednesday night, Brian McCann talked about his role in instant replay history and Jurrjens found himself unwilling to tarnish his teammates by expressing the feelings created by his growing frustrations.

But after telling the Braves media relations department that he had to meet his family, Escobar was unavailable to explain why he'd found himself flat-footed while Monroe scored from second base on Adam LaRoche's decisive seventh-inning single that Kelly Johnson fielded at the edge of the outfield grass.

"He wasn't heads-up on it, and I don't know if anybody was yelling to tell him," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

After stopping LaRoche's grounder on the backhand, Johnson simultaneously flipped to Escobar, who had no chance to record a forceout at second base. Nor did the flashy shortstop obviously know that Monroe never broke stride while rounding third base and heading toward the plate with a run that would prove decisive when Garret Anderson damaged Pirates closer Matt Capps with a two-out, ninth-inning solo homer.

While the seventh-inning damage came against Eric O'Flaherty, who opened his appearance by hitting Monroe, the consequences felled Jurrjens, who has seen Escobar's defensive lapses hurt him during both of his past two starts.

During Friday night's 4-0 loss to the Brewers, Escobar turned a dazzling defensive stop into a miscue by making an ill-advised throw that eluded Johnson and went into right field. Given the chance to negate that mistake moments later, he bobbled a tailor-made double-play grounder.

When asked about Escobar's latest mental mistake, which ended up causing him to lose back-to-back starts for the first time this year, Jurrjens simply said, "Next question, please."

While limiting the Pirates to two runs and four hits over six innings, Jurrjens overcame some early control issues that led to him having to throw 66 pitches during the first three innings.

But even while retiring the final 10 batters that he faced, the 23-year-old right-hander couldn't overcome the fact that the Braves were handcuffed by Jeff Karstens, who made an impromptu relief appearance when a tight left hamstring forced former Braves pitcher Charlie Morton to exit after a scoreless first inning.

"Their guy on short notice pitched great," Cox said. "He threw nothing but strikes. I mean a ton of strikes."

Karstens, who was Wednesday's original scheduled starter before throwing 18 pitches during Monday's 15-inning game, completed 4 2/3 innings and was damaged solely by an RBI double that McCann felt was a two-run homer before becoming the central figure in the first instant replay review utilized at Turner Field.

When the umpires quickly reviewed the fact that McCann's long drive bounced off the padded yellow portion on top of the outfield wall, Jurrjens once again found himself denied one of those runs that have been rare whenever he's toed the rubber this year.

While he has still been on the mound through his first 13 starts this year, Jurrjens has seen the Braves total 37 runs. Making matters worse is the fact that 10 of those runs were scored during his May 29 start in Arizona. Within the 13 innings that Jurrjens has pitched during the two starts that have followed the Braves have scored just one run.

"It's getting a little frustrating," Jurrjens said. "That's just baseball again. I'm just going to keep my head up and keep fighting, and whenever I go out there I'm going to try to give my team a chance to win."

Before attacking the strike zone more aggressively during his final three innings, Jurrjens was damaged only in the two-run third inning that began with consecutive singles recorded by Nyjer Morgan and Freddy Sanchez. Following two groundouts that resulted in the game's first run, Jason Jaramillo delivered a two-out RBI single.

"I just threw too many pitches, especially during the first couple of innings," Jurrjens said. "It cost me two runs when I was trying to be too perfect by painting the black."

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