Jurrjens struggles as Braves' win streak ends

Jurrjens struggles as Braves' win streak ends

Jurrjens struggles as Braves' win streak ends
ATLANTA -- Two weeks before the arrival of this year's Trade Deadline, the Braves find themselves still attempting to establish an identity. They entered July surrounded by some concerns and exited the All-Star break with some momentum.

But as Jair Jurrjens made an early exit and they bid adieu to a seven-game winning streak with an ugly 9-0 loss to the Giants on Tuesday night, the Braves were grounded and reminded that they are among the many teams that could benefit from making a trade by the end of this month.

"We've just got to put this behind us and come back tomorrow," Jurrjens said. "We've been playing good. We just had one bad game. There's no reason to panic."

Braves general manager Frank Wren is certainly not going to allow one loss in a span of eight games lead to what would be deemed a panic move. But as good as he might have felt about his club after it completed a sweep of the Mets on Sunday, he had reason to feel as discouraged during this lopsided loss.

Along with surrendering at least nine runs for the sixth time this year, the Braves tallied just three hits during the seven strong innings produced by Giants left-hander Barry Zito, who has posted a 2.03 ERA in six career starts against Atlanta.

"Probably one of the ugliest games we've played in a while," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said after seeing his club take its first shutout loss since being blanked by the Orioles in consecutive games on June 16 and 17.

It is not a secret that the Braves have shown definite interest in Zack Greinke, Ryan Dempster and some of the other starting pitchers who could be available via trade. Their concerns about their rotation have lessened courtesy of the recent arrival of Ben Sheets and the success Jurrjens had enjoyed since returning from a two-month demotion to Triple-A Gwinnett.

But while allowing the Giants eight earned runs and eight hits in 3 1/3 innings, Jurrjens certainly did not look like he had in the previous four starts he had made since returning to the Majors. Pitching for the first time since July 8, the veteran hurler struggled with his command and fell victim to some lackadaisical errors, including one of his own.

"I think his command wasn't as good as we've seen it before," Gonzalez said. "It was just one of those days, whether it happened to be the long days off between starts. He just wasn't the same and they took advantage."

The Giants took control of the game and gave Zito plenty of cushion during a six-run fourth inning that began when Jurrjens did not touch first base while attempting to cover the bag on Angel Pagan's grounder to the right side. Three batters later with runners at second and third base, Zito snuck an RBI single under third baseman Chipper Jones' glove.

Jurrjens then walked Gregor Blanco before seeing his night end with Ryan Theriot and Melky Cabrera recording consecutive bases-loaded RBI singles. Buster Posey then highlighted his five-RBI night by greeting left-handed reliever Luis Avilan with a three-run double off the left-center-field wall.

"There are a lot of ifs," Jurrjens said. "We just didn't get it done like a team. I didn't make pitches. We didn't hit and we didn't field. It's a team loss."

While Jurrjens was not as impressive as he had been while posting a 2.13 ERA in his four previous starts, the damage might not have been as severe had he and Jones converted what appeared to be easy outs long before the fourth inning spiraled out of control. Zito's soft single past Jones was his third hit since the start of the 2011 season.

There was some indication the Braves might be in for a long night when second-base umpire D.J. Reyburn ruled Blanco safe after Dan Uggla seemed to clearly tag him as he attempted to steal second in the first inning. Posey later scored Blanco with a double to left field.

After Braves center fielder Michael Bourn reacted slowly, Cabrera turned a single into a double in the third inning. Posey followed with an RBI single that drew loud applause from his friends and family members who traveled from his hometown of Leesburg, Ga.

"You can't ever blame the game on any one of those things, but you never know what would have happened if a few things would have happened different," Uggla said. "When it came down to it, they took advantage of opportunities that were given to them early in the ballgame. Then they put up that big inning against us."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.