By Bob Hurst

To compete with Philadelphia in the National League East this season, the Atlanta Braves knew their pitching would have to be up to the task, and Jair Jurrjens would be a big part of that.

After an injury-plagued 2010 season, Jurrjens has emerged as the Braves ace, going 12-3 with a 1.87 ERA, ranking second in the majors in wins and ERA. And his performance has helped Atlanta rank second in the majors with a 3.11 ERA.

Jurrjens, who went 7-6 with a 4.64 last season while battling hamstring and knee injuries, has won four consecutive decisions, which helped him earn his first All-Star game selection.

The right-hander is the first pitcher to win at least 12 games with an ERA under 2.00 at the All-Star break since Randy Johnson did it with Arizona in 2000. The last Braves pitcher to do it was Greg Maddux in 1998.

In his last start on July 6, Jurrjens allowed a run on five hits in six innings of a 9-1 victory over Colorado. It was his fourth straight start of allowing no more than one run.

“It’s a good feeling,” Jurrjens told the Atlanta Journal & Constitution. “That’s what you work for during the offseason and the season, to try to start out on a good run and go into the break with good numbers, then try to grind the second half out.”

Jurrjens isn’t taking anything for granted, considering the flame-out experienced by the Rockies Ubaldo Jimenez, who was 15-1 at the All-Star break last year and 4-7 after.

“The season is still long,” Jurrjens said. “Everybody know what happened to Ubaldo last year.”

On July 1, Jurrjens pitched his second complete game of the season in a 4-0 win over Baltimore. He took a no-hitter into the seventh and wound up allowing one hit.

“It was one of his best performances of the season,”. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He’s been the most consistent pitcher we’ve had, and today was no different.”

Jurrjens now turns his attention to the second half of the season, and helping to get the Braves into the postseason.

“There’s still a lot of big games to play, big games to pitch. The goal is to get into the playoffs.”

Jeter reaches 3,000-hit club: Derek Jeter got his 3,000th hit in grand style on Saturday. Coming into the game at Yankee Stadium against Tampa Bay, Jeter had only two home runs this season, and hadn’t hit one at home since an inside-the-park homer last summer.

Jeter needed two hits to become the first New York Yankees player to reach 3,000 hits. He singled in his first at-bat. Then in the third, Jeter pounced on a curve ball from Rays pitcher David Price, hitting a home run into the left-field stands in front of a sold out crowd of 48,103.

He added a double and two more singles in a 5-for-5 day, including the tie-breaking hit in the eighth inning of a 5-4 Yankees win.

“I don’t think you can script it any better,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s just remarkable the day that he had.”

Jeter thought his 3,000th would be like most of his other hits in his career.

“Hitting a home run was the last thing I was thinking about,” he said. “I was excited, but to be honest with you, I was pretty relieved. There was a lot of pressure to do it here.”

Jeter is the 28th major leaguer to get 3,000 hits, and the 11th player to get all 3,000 hits with one team.

StatsWatch: Here are the longest hitting streaks so far this season –

 

Andre Ethier, Dodgers, 30 games

Hunter Pence, Astros, 23 games

Ryan Braun, Brewers, 22 games

Pablo Sandoval, Giants, 21 games

Ryan Theriot, Cardinals, 20 games

 

Quotable: “Money is cool, but I’m only 23, so I have plenty of time to make money. It’s a milestone. Mr. Jeter deserved it.” — Christian Lopez, who caught Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit, a homer, and returned the ball to Jeter without asking anything for it. The Yankees gave Lopez memorabilia and four suite tickets to every game the rest of this season, including the playoffs.

 

Diamond Notes: New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano hit a total of 32 home runs, 12 in the final round, to win the Home Run Derby on Monday night at Chase Field in Phoenix. Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez was second with 31 homers, 11 in the final round…Former Rookie of the Year Dontrelle Willis made his first start since June 29, 2010 on Sunday for Cincinnati. Willis, who was pitching for Triple-A Louisville, was called up by the Reds and allowed two runs on four hits in six innings at Milwaukee…Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones is on the DL with a meniscus tear in his right knee. Jones, hitting .259 with eight homers and 46 RBIs, had surgery and will be out four to six weeks.

 

 

Copyright © 2011  Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.

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