Coming off one of his most dominant outings of the season, Jurrjens looks to win his fourth straight start Tuesday night as Atlanta travels to Florida to begin a critical three-game set between these playoff hopefuls.
The Braves (51-48) have gone 8-3 since the All-Star break, outscoring opponents 67-30. Brian McCann(notes) and Kelly Johnson(notes) paved the way for Atlanta’s latest offensive outburst, each homering and delivering three hits Sunday in a 10-2 win at Milwaukee.
“I think everybody’s really stepped up their confidence level, everybody’s been playing so good,” said Johnson, who returned late last week from a stint on the disabled list with tendinitis in his wrist. “It’s also like a swagger, it’s just a feeling being in the clubhouse.”
Atlanta has scored 15 runs in Jurrjens’ last two starts, but that generous support hasn’t been needed as he’s allowed five hits and one run in 13 2-3 innings since the break.
“J.J. pitched one of the best games he’s pitched since he’s been in the big leagues,” McCann told the Braves’ official Web site. “He’s had so many, but this one is going to stick out much more than the others.”
Jurrjens is 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA in five July starts, holding hitters to a .162 average.
The right-hander is 2-1 with a 6.14 ERA in four career starts against the Marlins (51-48) but had his best effort against them earlier this season. Jurrjens allowed two solo homers to Hanley Ramirez(notes) and gave up just one additional hit over seven innings in a 4-2 win at Land Shark Stadium on May 7.
Ramirez has three homers among his four hits in 12 career at-bats off Jurrjens.
The NL’s leading hitter (.348) led Florida to an 8-6 win in Los Angeles on Sunday, capping a 5-1 trip against San Diego and the major league-leading Dodgers. Ramirez drove in three runs with a pair of two-out hits, raising his average to .427 with runners in scoring position - second in the majors. Atlanta’s Yunel Escobar(notes) leads with a .437 average.
“(Hanley) led off his first three years in the major leagues and won a Silver Slugger. Now we’ve put him in the three hole and he’s driving in runs,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Ramirez, who hit .239 with runners in scoring position in 2008. “This guy can do anything on the baseball field. If you ask him to play center field tomorrow, he may win a Gold Glove. He’s that talented.”
Ricky Nolasco(notes) (7-7, 5.42) flashed his considerable skill Wednesday at San Diego after a pair of rocky starts sandwiched around the break. Nolasco gave up two singles over 6 1-3 innings, striking out 10 in a 5-0 victory.
Nolasco is 5-2 with a 2.73 ERA since June 7, averaging 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s been anything but dominant against Atlanta, however. Nolasco posted a 10.57 ERA in three losses to the Braves in 2008, allowing 10 homers in 15 1-3 innings.
The home team has yet to win a game in a season series Florida leads 3-2.
On Monday, Florida pitcher Burke Badenhop(notes) was suspended three games and Gonzalez penalized one. Badenhop hit Dodgers second baseman Orlando Hudson(notes) with a pitch Sunday after both teams were issued warnings earlier in the game.
Badenhop’s suspension will begin with this game unless he appeals, while Gonzalez will sit out.