(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
So here we are, May 31st – welcome back to the daily grind for those of you coming off a nice, long Memorial Day weekend break.
The Braves started the month of May so well, 12-4 including two series wins over the Phillies. Then came that 1-4 west coast swing that seemed to put a damper on things.
The Braves have won two series in a row over the Pirates and Reds, yet losing yesterday to the Padres 3-2 in 10 innings had to be deflating. The offensive futility is starting to wear on this team some. It’s like the Braves need one of those days where hits come easy, just to take some of the pressure off.
Even when the Braves win, they’re not scoring runs. They’re getting incredible pitching efforts, like from Jair Jurrjens on Sunday night. (More on Jurrjens in a second.) The Braves’ 2.83 ERA in May leads the major leagues. And let’s not forget yesterday when reliever Jonny Venters got another one of his bases loaded, less than two-out, double play balls to keep the Braves in the game.
But the last time the Braves scored more than two runs in a nine-inning game was on May 16 against the Astros. And that was a whopping three runs. The last time the Braves scored more than three runs in a nine-inning game was on May 14 against the Phillies in a 5-3 win that Saturday afternoon game against Joe Blanton.
The next day was Dan Uggla day, when he hit the game-winning home run in a 3-2 win off Roy Halladay and scored all three Braves’ run that day. Since then, Uggla is 4-for-47 (.085) with no one RBI in 13 games. He has no extra-base hits in that span and nine strikeouts.
Despite it all, the Braves are still 17-10 in May, second in the National League only to (oddly) the Arizona Diamondbacks and in the majors to the Boston Red Sox, who are finally playing like everybody thought they would.
Red Sox 19-9 .679
D-backs 19-9 .679
Braves 17-10 .630
Giants 16-11 .593
Brewers 16-12 .571
Phillies 16-12 .571
Cardinals 16-12 .571
The Braves have to win tonight and tomorrow night against the Padres to take the series, but it’s something they’ve done before. After dropping the series opener in San Diego on April 25 5-3 in 13 innings, they won the next two by a total of 15-2. One of the pitchers they beat in those last two games was Mat Latos who is pitching tonight against Mike Minor.
On paper, you figure advantage Latos, the big ol’ 23-year-old with the nasty stuff, but he’s only 2-6 with a 4.08 ERA this year. He is coming off eight innings of one-run ball against the Cardinals and a 3-1 win, but he’s allowed four runs in two of three starts prior, and if he keeps with the “every other” theme, he’s due for another four tonight.
Minor pitched well in his return to the rotation Wednesday in Pittsburgh, looking much more poised and in control while holding the Pirates to one run in 5 2/3 innings. Still would be nice to see the Braves get a little cushion for him. That’d be nice for any of the starters right now.
Pitcher of the month?
Jurrjens makes a nice case for NL pitcher of the month while going 5-1 with a 1.65 ERA in May. The Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo is 5-1 as well but his ERA is 2.25, not shabby, but not Jurrjens.
Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz has 11 saves with 13 scoreless innings this month. But do you go there when you have somebody allowing only eight runs in 43 2/3 innings?
Jurrjens is on the kind of roll that should land him on his first All-Star team. Another month close to this, and maybe he even starts for the National League. Hey, you never know.
Overall on the season, Jurrjens is 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA, which leads all qualified major league starters. There’s a seven-way tie for the major-league lead in wins, of well, seven, and what’s not to like about the symmetry there?
Jurrjens is having a historical start to his season, all while missing the first couple of starts with an oblique injury. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jurrjens is only the fourth pitcher in major league history to begin a season with nine consecutive starts of six or more innings, while allowing two or fewer runs in each game. The only others to do it are Lefty Gomez in 1937, Randy Johnson in 2000 and Ubaldo Jimenez in 2010.
Chipper Jones told me yesterday about a conversation he had with Jordan Schafer in spring training, laying out to him that he needed to play like a leadoff hitter if he wanted to get back up here, using his speed and putting the ball in play, etc. One quote I didn’t use and thought I should have is below, about how sometimes frankness can go a long way. And it’s something Schafer wanted. He’s the one who asked Chipper what it would take to get to the big leagues again.
“I think I just told him something that nobody else would,” Jones said. “I think sometimes you take it for granted that a guy knows he’s going to be a leadoff hitter in the big leagues, or a 1 or 2 hitter, and they just automatically know what to do.”…
The Braves played their 12th extra inning game of the season Monday in their first 55 games. They had played four to this point last season and 13 all last season, if that helps put it in perspective a little…
Our congratulations to Blue Jays left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes, who pitched his first career complete game yesterday in an 11-1 win over the Indians, to win for the first time in almost three years. He broke a streak of 28 winless starts since he beat the Dodgers on June 13, 2008 as a pitcher for the Braves….
Yesterday was a pretty special setting for Memorial Day, when the Braves held a moving on-field ceremony before the game where active members of the military lined the infield with players from both the Braves and Padres. There was a ceremonial first pitch by Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, commander of Ft. Benning, a video presentation and a 21-gun salute.
The Braves hosted 1,353 members of the military and their families over the weekend as part of a promotion to give free tickets to military personnel and half-off to their family members….
We close by acknowledging it’s a sad day for hockey fans in Atlanta and that we just got one professional sports franchise lighter here in the big city. I’ll save the politics and comments about ownership etc and just say thanks for the memories to some of the great players we saw over the years here – Kovy, Hossa, and a personal favorite because he was such a nice guy and gutsy goaltender, Moose (Johan Hedberg). Those guys and others were awfully patient with a sportswriter trying to figure out something about their game on the fly a couple years back as a fill-in over there.
More from Turner Field in a little while.