The Atlanta Braves may not make the NL playoffs, but they’re picking the right time to play their best baseball of the season.
One night after setting a season high with their sixth straight win, the Braves will seek their longest winning streak in more than three years Thursday as they look for a three-game sweep of the visiting New York Mets.
Atlanta (77-68) appeared to be buried in the NL playoff race just 10 days ago after a three-game sweep in Cincinnati and a five-game losing streak left it 7 1/2 games behind wild card-leading Colorado.
The Braves have won seven of eight since, however, with the latest victory one of their most dramatic yet. Atlanta trailed by one heading into the bottom of the ninth Wednesday but scored twice off New York closer Francisco Rodriguez(notes), the final run in the 6-5 victory coming after Daniel Murphy(notes) booted a grounder by former Mets outfielder Ryan Church(notes).
“We didn’t draw it up that way but we’ll take it,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “Oh, man!”
Atlanta, which hasn’t won seven in a row since July 8-18, 2006, trails the Rockies by five games - four in the loss column. With Colorado idle Thursday, the Braves should feel good about their chances to cut into that deficit with Jair Jurrjens(notes) (11-10, 2.81 ERA) on the mound.
Jurrjens has been outstanding over his past four starts, lasting at least seven innings in each, but a lack of run support has left him with a 1-2 record despite a 1.82 ERA over that stretch.
Omar Infante’s(notes) second-inning RBI single was all the support Jurrjens would get last Friday at St. Louis, but it was all he needed. The right-hander gave up six hits over eight innings, striking out seven in a 1-0 win.
“He keeps us in every ballgame and he’s just been dominant all year,” said catcher Brian McCann(notes), who is 10 for 20 with five RBIs in his last five games. “Tonight might have been his best performance of the year.”
McCann is hitting .356 against the Mets (63-83) this season, and one of his three homers versus New York - a three-run shot - came in a 15-2 victory at Citi Field on Aug. 19. Jurrjens gave up two runs in six innings that day to improve to 2-0 with a 1.83 ERA in three starts against the Mets in 2009.
New York right-hander Nelson Figueroa(notes) (2-5, 4.57) allowed two of the 15 runs Aug. 19 in a relief role, but he’s been starting since Aug. 25. Figueroa has been solid in four outings, posting a 3.09 ERA, but is just 1-3.
Control was an issue in Figueroa’s latest start, when he gave up two runs and nine hits - walking five - over 5 1-3 innings Friday in a 4-2 loss at Philadelphia.
Chipper Jones(notes) is the only Brave to have faced Figueroa more than four times, and he’s 2 for 12 (.167) with three walks. Jones, however, hasn’t started since Saturday because of a strained left groin and lower back pain. He struck out in a pinch-hit appearance Wednesday, but isn’t likely to return to the lineup until this weekend against Philadelphia.
Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar(notes) was 0 for 3 Wednesday, only the second time he’s gone hitless against the Mets this season. He’s hitting .442 with 11 RBIs and 10 walks in 14 games versus New York.