LAWRENCEVILLE — Saturday night’s game with Syracuse was another step forward for Jair Jurrjens, but another setback for the Gwinnett Braves.
The 24-year-old Atlanta Braves right-hander had a much better outing in his second Gwinnett start in rehabbing his injured hamstring, but the G-Braves’ bats remained in hibernation in a 2-0 setback to the Chiefs before a crowd of 9,257 — the largest crowd of the season at Coolray Field.
CHIEFS 2, G-BRAVES 0
What happened: Jair Jurrjens fared considerably better in his second rehab start on his way back from an injured hamstring than in his first last week. The 24-year-old right-hander scattered eight hits and gave up just two earned runs with four strikeouts and a walk in 41⁄3 innings, and threw 53 strikes among his 79 pitches. However, the G-Braves’ offense continued to struggle as they were shut out for the third straight game running their scoreless streak to 23 consecutive innings despite two hits each from Wes Timmons and Matt Young.
Crucial moments: The G-Braves’ best chances to break their long scoreless streak came in the seventh and eighth innings. But Justin Maxwell made a nice running catch on Joe Thurston’s liner to center with a runner on third and two outs in the seventh, while Mitch Jones bounced into a double play with runners on first and second and two outs to end the eighth.
Web gem: Thurston ranged almost behind the bag at second on Chase Lambin’s grounder and made a strong throw to a stretching Freddie Freeman to get him at first.
On deck: The six-game series with Syracuse concludes today at 2:05 p.m., with right-hander Takahashi Saito taking to the mound on a rehab assignment on his way back from a hamstring injury, though he will only pitch one inning or 25 pitches. Right-hander Jeff Mandel (2-2, 4.54 ERA) will get the start for the Chiefs.
It was the third straight shutout for the G-Braves, who have been limited to just four total runs in the 35 innings played in the series.
But the main focus was still Jurrjens, who had a more positive experience in his second rehab start, though he says he still has a long way to go before heading back down I-85 to Turner Field.
“I was expecting more from myself and I was trying to go deeper in the game (Saturday night),” said Jurrjens (0-1), who gave up two earned runs with four walks in just 22⁄3 innings in his initial rehab start against Durham last Monday. “I still have some tune up to do for my next one trying to get ready to get back to the big club. I definitely want to be more aggressive.”
As with his first rehab outing last week, Jurrjens was strong in the first inning, pitching around a two-out single by Kevin Mench to emerge unscathed after just 13 pitches, only to run into trouble in the second.
Chase Lambin blooped a single into left to lead off the inning, and Chris Duncan followed by blasting a two-run home run about five feet inside the foul pole down the right-field line to put Syracuse up 2-0.
However, the 6-1, 200-pound right-hander settled down and pitched around four hits over the next three innings to finish his night after 41⁄3 innings having given up just the two runs.
Even more encouraging was the fact 53 of his 79 pitches on the evening went for strikes, considerably better than his first rehab start last Monday in which he threw only 39 of his 66 pitches for strikes over 22⁄3 innings.
“The main thing wasn’t the (pitching) line. It was how my leg’s feeling and trying to get myself back on pitch count and my stamina,” said Jurrjens, who expects to have his pitch count raised to 90 on his next rehab start, which is expected to come Thursday, when the G-Braves close out their current homestand against Buffalo.
“If you see it that way, it seems I had a good night. But ... I got away with a lot of mistakes. In the big leagues, you’re not going to get away with those.
“Throwing strikes is not going to get it done. Throwing good strikes — that’s the whole thing.”
But while it was an overall good night for Jurrjens and pitchers Cory Gearrin, Mariano Gomez and Stephen Marek, the latter three of which shut out Syracuse on two hits over the final 42⁄3 innings, the G-Braves continued to struggle at the plate.
“(The pitchers) gave us an opportunity to win the ball game,” G-Braves manager Dave Brundage said. “It’s a team game. The pitchers are giving us opportunities. Sometimes, that’s the way it goes.”
Matt Chico (2-3) scattered six hits — two each by Wes Timmons and Matt Young — over 61⁄3 scoreless innings before giving way to the bullpen.
The lefty and five different Syracuse relievers extended the G-Braves’ streak of scoreless innings to 23 straight innings in their third straight shutout loss, with Mike MacDougal getting the final two outs to pick up his first save of the season.
It is the first time the franchise has been shut out three straight games since moving to Gwinnett and the first time since May 31-June 2, 2005, when the then-Richmond Braves went scoreless in three straight against Rochester.