Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 6/23/12
This is exactly what Jair Jurrjens needed. In turn, this is exactly what the Braves wanted to see from Jurrjens. And it would have been tough to find anyone who could have predicted this kind of a performance from a guy who spent the past eight weeks in minor league exile. I thought he would get rocked and rolled and be gone by the third inning. But there was Jurrjens on Friday night, recalled by the Braves out of necessity, facing the red-hot Red Sox at Fenway Park. Somehow, Jurrjens rediscovered the touch, the magic that made him one of the Braves' most consistent starters for most of the past four years. He made Boston's bats disappear for the better part of 7 23 innings in his first major-league start since April 23, giving the Braves hope that Jurrjens can fill the massive void left in their rotation when Brandon Beachy was lost for the year after having Tommy John surgery. Jurrjens needed help from his bullpen as the Braves stopped the Red Sox' five-game winning streak with a 4-1 win, but that didn't matter to him or his teammates. They were just happy Jurrjens wasn't the same pitcher the Braves dispatched to Triple-A Gwinnett two months ago. He hadn't lasted longer than five innings in any of his four starts for the Braves in April and went to the minors burdened with doubts, decreased velocity, an 0-2 record and a 9.37 ERA. He was masterful in his return. He was efficient. He was dominating. Jurrjens looked determined and focused. He worked quick, but he wasn't rushed. He wasn't bothered by anything, not even the 74-minute rain delay that pushed the game's start back. Jurrjens was consistently ahead in the count, hit his spots and changed speeds and befuddled Boston batters. He allowed one hit, one walk and had hit another batter through seven innings. The Red Sox broke through with two doubles and a run in the eighth, but Jurrjens left with a lead that held up and earned him his first major-league victory since Aug. 22, 2011. "I've caught Jair for a long, long time now, and when he's got that changeup on both sides of the plate and he's getting that heater on both sides of the plate, he can dissect a lineup," Braves catcher Brian McCann said in a postgame TV interview. "He knows how to pitch." And he showed that. Jurrjens threw 103 pitches and was masterfully economical throughout his time on the mound. He threw just 10 pitches in the fourth, making short work of Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz and Cody Ross, the meat of the Red Sox order. And just to prove he could better that, he needed only seven pitches in the seventh. Ortiz flew out to left on the first pitch. Ross saw two pitches before popping out to third. Jarrod Saltalamacchia then struck out on four pitches. By that time, Jurrjens was trending on Twitter. Beachy, fresh off his surgery to repair his right elbow, tweeted: "What a fantastic game from JJ in his return! Really happy for him, just wish I was there to give him a congratulatory butt pat." If Jurrjens can do this in the majority of his starts for the rest of the season, it will help take the pressure off GM Frank Wren to make a trade to bolster the rotation. Losing Beachy, who likely will be out until the middle of 2013, was a huge blow, but if Jurrjens can return to the form that he used to go 12-3 with a 1.75 ERA in the first half of 2011, then they'll be able to save their top prospects and the payroll needed to trade for a top starter. Or Wren could make a move while Jurrjens is hot and trade him, like the club tried to do last winter. They'll sort all that out between now and the July 31 trading deadline. Right now, Jurrjens and the Braves just want to enjoy his return to the majors.
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