Impressive starting pitching this month has kept the Atlanta Braves in control of the NL East. There’s little reason to think that trend will change Sunday.
Only once in August has a Braves starter given up more than three runs, and Jair Jurrjens(notes) hasn’t done that at home in more than a year heading into a matchup with the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers.
A big reason Atlanta (67-49) has a two-game division lead - even with second-place Philadelphia on a 17-5 tear - is a rotation which has a 1.60 ERA in 13 games this month. The club’s starters are 5-2 in August - the bullpen blew three other potential wins - while holding opponents to a .210 average.
Jurrjens (4-4, 4.16 ERA) has gone 4-1 with a 3.14 ERA in eight starts since missing two months with a strained hamstring. He’s pitched into the seventh inning in five of his last six, including 7 1-3 innings Tuesday as he gave up two runs - one earned - without getting a decision in a 4-2 win at Houston.
The Braves have won all six of his home outings this season as the right-hander has gone 4-0 with a 1.91 ERA. He’s made 12 consecutive starts at Turner Field without surrendering more than three runs.
That streak dates back to his last outing against Los Angeles on Aug. 2, 2009, when he was tagged for four runs and 10 hits in five innings of a 9-1 loss.
This Dodgers team, though, has not scored more than three runs in 17 of its last 23 games. Los Angeles was shut out for the second time in three games Friday as Braves ace Tim Hudson(notes) went eight innings, then scored once in six innings against Derek Lowe(notes) on Saturday but won 2-1.
“We held them to two runs on 12 hits,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said. “That’s pretty darn good.”
While Cox is retiring at season’s end, the same may be true of Dodgers manager Joe Torre. He said Saturday he will decide by Labor Day if he’ll retire after this season, not wanting to announce his plans until the team’s postseason outlook is clear.
Torre made a major move this week in an effort to help the Dodgers’ dim playoff hopes, replacing the struggling Jonathan Broxton(notes) with Hong-Chih Kuo(notes) as closer. Kuo worked a perfect ninth to save Saturday’s game and said he could pitch again Sunday, though Torre is wary of using him on consecutive days and expects Octavio Dotel(notes) to serve as closer.
“He’s been chomping at the bit to get the ball more often,” Torre said of Kuo, who has allowed one run in his last 20 innings.
The Dodgers (60-57) snapped a three-game losing streak Saturday and won for the third time in 15 road games.
He hadn’t allowed more than two runs in eight straight starts until Tuesday, when he gave up four runs in five innings but beat Philadelphia in a 15-9 victory.
The 12-year veteran snapped a six-game losing streak to the Braves when he last faced them in 2008.
“I’m trying to validate the trade,” he said. “I want to show people they made the right move.”