Jurrjens Does It All In His Return, Braves Win 4-1

Many people questioned whether Jair Jurrjens was ready to return to the Braves' rotation... Well, maybe it was just me, but I had my reasons. After all, he had only three rehab starts, and he didn't exactly light the AAA world on fire when he was down there.

Consider those questions answered. Jurrjens returned with a vengeance tonight, striking out 6 Nationals in 5+ innings of work. He did give up some baserunners (6 hits and 2 walks), but made some good pitches when he needed to, and except for the 6th inning, got out of all the jams. His fastball had tons of life, and he threw 56 of 85 pitches for strikes (66%). He did miss his target badly on a few pitches, but all in all he pitched about as well as we could have hoped after such a long layoff.

Jurrjens also contributed with the glove and with the bat. Defensively, he used his glove to knock down a wicked liner by Ivan Rodriguez in the 5th and got the out. Offensively, he was even better, padding the Braves' lead with a crucial RBI hit. With runners on 1st and 2nd and one out in the 4th inning, JJ faked bunt, drew his bat back, and slapped a hit past Nats' 3B Ryan Zimmerman. Not only did the hit score Eric Hinske to make the score 2-0, but it also set up Martin Prado's sacrifice fly, which scored Gregor Blanco to make it 3-0.

JJ escaped a 5th-inning, bases-loaded situation in the 5th to preserve the lead, but when he loaded the bases with nobody out in the 6th, Bobby Cox went to the bullpen. Jurrjens' final pitching line was 5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K, and a 0.039 WPA (which would have been higher if JJ hadn't left his bullpen such a mess to clean up in the 6th).

Peter Moylan got the call in the high-pressure situation and immediately got a double play from Ivan Rodriguez. A run scored on the play, making it 3-1, but the 2 outs were crucial there. After a walk and a wild pitch, Moylan managed to strike out Alberto Gonzalez to end the threat. The Nationals would not threaten again.

Nationals starter J.D. Martin was decent, though hardly spectacular. He did get a ton of pop-ups, but he also threw a ton of pitches (96 in 5 innings) and wasn't exactly unhittable. The Braves got on the board in the first inning when Brian McCann doubled in Martin Prado with two outs. The Braves loaded the bases after McCann's double, but Yunel Escobar popped up to end the inning.

If Jurrjens had actually bunted off of Martin during that 4th-inning rally, Martin might have escaped with only giving up one run. Fortunately for Braves fans, JJ swung away, and Martin was saddled with the loss. Martin's final line: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 K, and a -0.143 WPA.

The Braves added an insurance run without a hit in the 7th. Nats reliever Doug Slaten hit Melky Cabrera on the foot with a pitch, walked Chipper Jones on four pitches, and then hit Brian McCann on the hand to load the bases (Mac stayed in the game). Miguel Batista came on in relief of Slaten and walked Eric Hinske to score a run.

The Braves' bullpen was spectacular tonight. After Moylan's excellent work, Jonny Venters pitched a scoreless 7th, Takashi Saito struck out 2 in a perfect 8th, and Billy Wagner struck out the side in the 9th to end it. When those 4 are in top form like they were tonight, our bullpen is scary-good.

Welcome back to the rotation, JJ, and congratulations on (finally!) getting your first win of 2010! It's nice to have you back, and it's nice to keep winning series.

Awards

MVP
Jair Jurrjens-- pitching line above, plus he was the Braves' top hitter by WPA (0.104)

Honorable Mention
The whole bullpen, but especially Moylan (0.190 WPA). He came up huge in a tough spot.
McCann-- 1/3, HBP, 2B, RBI, 0.099 WPA
Hinske-- 1/2, 2 BB, R, RBI, 0.093 WPA
Prado-- 1/4, SF, 2B, R, RBI, 0.063 WPA

LVPs
Rodriguez-- 1/4, GIDP, -0.166 WPA
Roger Bernadina-- 0/3, K, -0.129 WPA

MVP in a Losing Effort
Adam Dunn-- 2/4, 2B, K, 0.107 WPA

Clutch Plays
Jurrjens' "I'm not bunting after all" RBI single (0.117 WPA)
McCann's RBI double (0.106 WPA)

Unclutch Play
Rodriguez's double play with the bases loaded and no outs (-0.148 WPA)

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