The Braves entered Pittsburgh, Friday, on the back of a three-game sweep by the Florida Marlins and desperately seeking some offensive production. Unfortunately for Atlanta, they found themselves on the wrong end of a pitching duel between Jair Jurrjens and the Pirates' Paul Maholm. The game finished 3-0 to Pittsburgh.
The Braves only have themselves to blame for not taking something from this match-up. Several times they had great opportunities, but failed to capitalise on them. Most notable was in the second inning, when with the bases loaded and nobody out, Casey Kotchman popped up on a broken bat and the infield fly rule was called, then Jordan Schafer grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The Braves had their chances. Jeff Francouer continued his great start, going 3-4 and twice Brian McCann found himself on base having been hit by pitches, but every time the Braves got something going, Maholm managed to wriggle out of a jam, forcing ground ball after ground ball. Maholm was eventually pulled after seven innings having given up just four hits and three walks.
On the other side, Jair Jurrjens was also having his best night of the season. The run given up in the second inning the only real blemish on an otherwise impeccable performance. The Curacao native struck out seven in 6.2 innings of work and he too scattered just four hits. Jurrjens also gave up two walks in the seventh inning, but these were more a result of fatigue than poor control. Unfortunately for Jurrjens, his good work went unrewarded and he took his first loss of the season.
The game was effectively over in the bottom of the eighth inning, when with the score still at 1-0, Mike Gonzalez gave up a two run shot to Nate McLouth, continuing the bullpen's woes early in 2009.
The Braves now extend their losing streak to four and have just two runs to show for two and a half games. Obviously missing Chipper Jones and Yunel Escobar from the lineup has hurt the team, but the little things are just not going Atlanta's way. Jones is expected back in the lineup on Sunday, having recovered from a bruised thumb sustained at the end of Spring Training.
Before then though, the Braves face the Pirates in Game 2 on Saturday. Jo-Jo Reyes will make his first start of the season, having been brought in for what would have been Tom Glavine's first start. The veteran left-hander is suffering from inflammation to his left shoulder. Reyes faces Ian Snell (0-2) in a 12:35pm start.
18th April 2009