Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 4/18/12
Jair Jurrjens liked the way he pitched in his last start. No, believe him. He really did. Forget the fact that he gave up seven hits and five runs in five-plus innings for the Braves against Milwaukee on Friday, Jurrjens was pleased. In the second, he gave up consecutive home runs to George Kottaras and former teammate Alex Gonzalez. And then in the sixth, pitching with an 8-3 advantage, Jurrjens couldnt protect it. He gave up consecutive hits to Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart, and just like that, he was gone. He pitched well in most of those, four to be exact, but not the second and sixth. All three of those runs scored and the bullpen couldnt hold what was left of the lead, costing Jurrjens his first victory since Aug. 22, 2011. The Braves won 10-8 after scoring the winning runs in the eighth. "Its hard to swallow my performance. It felt really good," Jurrjens said afterward. "The ball was coming really good out of my hand. Hes right. Jurrjens reached 92 mph with his fastball, striking out Braun swinging on that pitch in the first inning. His fastball was humming, hovering around 89 and 90 mph, an increase from the average of 87 mph it reached in his first start against the New York Mets on April 7. JJ will be better than he showed (Friday), Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. He left a couple balls over the plate to Gonzo. It was the right idea to Gonzo, but he just didnt get it up high enough. Then the sixth inning we just couldnt get an out there for him. In Jurrjens defense, hes still working his way back from a right knee injury that cost him the final month of last season. Its the same knee that ended his 2010 season early and required arthroscopic surgery that October. He reported to spring training at about 80 percent this year, but his knee improved and gained strength, thanks to orthotics for his shoe that has corrected an issue with his big toe and a knee brace he wears on the mound. If any of his joints are bothering Jurrjens, it didnt show in the fifth, when he bounced from the mound to make a couple of excellent fielding plays. First, he pounced on Randy Wolfs bunt attempt and threw out Kottaras at second. He then nimbly grabbed Nyjer Morgans grounder up the middle and threw him out to end the inning. But then came the sixth and disaster, an inning that pushed his ERA to 7.71 in his two starts. Hes given up 14 hits and eight runs in 9 13 innings this year. Jurrjens obviously is not the same pitcher who made big-league hitters look foolish the first three months of last season. He doesnt even look like the guy who showed so much promise in 2008 and 09. He dominated hitters last spring, going 7-1 through April and May, struggled slightly in early June, but then won his four starts heading into the All-Star break. He was 12-3 with a 1.87 ERA and was selected to the NL team. But something happened. Jurrjens struggled after the break. He gave up six runs in five innings on July 18 and was pounded in three of his four August starts. The Braves shut him down for the final month and he spent the winter in Atlanta, rehabbing and listening to trade rumors that overwhelmed the Internet and talk radio shows on a near daily basis. Its part of the business, and it wouldnt be my first time to be traded, he said in January. Its part of the business, and I dont take it personally. Jurrjens spring was unspectacular and he didnt last long against the Mets in his first start. He threw 102 pitches in 4 13 innings, giving up seven hits, three runs and two home runs. That start was part of a six-game trend in which Braves starters failed to record an out in the sixth inning. Jurrjens couldnt snap the streak on Friday, but Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, Tommy Hanson and Randall Delgado have each accomplished the feat in the past four games. Jurrjens will try again today against the Mets. If he does, itll be another step in regaining his lost magic.
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