Jurrjens remains flawless in Philly

Jurrjens remains flawless in Philly

PHILADELPHIA -- Taking the first two games of the season against the defending World Series champions doesn't provide the Braves any guarantees pertaining to this season. They opened the 2007 season with a three-game sweep in Philadelphia, then watched the Phillies claim a National League East crown six months later.

But coming off a 90-loss season, during which they were routinely outplayed by the Phillies, the Braves have every reason to be thrilled about the fact that they've come to Philadelphia and sobered some of the post-World Series jubilation with two solid victories that have come courtesy of impressive pitching and distributed power.

While claiming a 4-0 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night, the Braves saw Kelly Johnson hammer the evening's first pitch into the right-field seats, providing Jair Jurrjens all the support he'd need to gain yet another win in this offensive haven that he's conquered during the early days of his career.

"We were 4-14 against these guys last year," Chipper Jones said. "We're not going out and knocking anybody's eyeballs out by denting the scoreboard every inning. But we're hitting some balls hard and hitting them out of the ballpark. That goes a long way for the team's confidence, for the individual's confidence and the pitcher's confidence."

While taking 14 of the first 16 games played during last year's season series, the Phils found numerous ways to shake the Braves' confidence. Courtesy of a shaky Atlanta pitching staff, Philadelphia claimed four of those victories in games that it was trailing by at least three runs.

But the page has turned to 2009, and the Braves are providing indication that last year's pitching struggles are certainly a thing of the past. During the first two games of this season, their starters have completed 13 2/3 scoreless innings and their bullpen, healthy once again, has surrendered just one run in 4 1/3 innings.

While Jurrjens proved stingy with 5 2/3 scoreless innings, the evening's most important outing might have been delivered by Eric O'Flaherty, who allowed just one hit in 1 1/3 scoreless innings. The left-handed reliever retired Matt Stairs with two runners on to end the sixth, then adeptly handled the top of Philadelphia's potent lineup in the seventh.

Switch-hitters Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino began the seventh with back-to-back groundouts. That provided some breathing room to face the left-handed power duo of Chase Utley, who singled, and Ryan Howard, who grounded out to end the inning.

"Eric probably gets the save, because he was in the key position there facing the middle of the lineup," Jones said. "There was some trouble that inning and he restored order and allowed [Rafael] Soriano and [Mike] Gonzalez to go through some relatively easy innings."

The power-suspect Braves have backed their pitchers with five homers from five players. Brian McCann, Jeff Francoeur and Jordan Schafer each homered during their first at-bats on Sunday.

Following that trio's lead on Tuesday, Johnson jumped on the 80-mph fastball that Jamie Moyer delivered for his first pitch of the season. Knowing the soft-tossing 45-year-old southpaw couldn't throw anything past him, Atlanta's second baseman went to the plate looking to collect his fourth career leadoff homer.

"[Moyer] relies on location," Johnson said. "But there, he was just trying to get strike one with his first pitch of the game in the first start of the year with his first pitch of the season. If it was there, I was ready to swing."

Jones collected his first homer of the season in the fourth inning and aided the two-run first inning with a double that put him in position to score on Chase Utley's fielding error on a ball hit by Brian McCann. Like Lowe on Sunday night, Jurrjens was able to deliver his first pitch with a 2-0 lead.

Jurrjens needed 46 pitches to complete the first two innings, then once again showed his advanced maturity while making the adjustments that allowed him to surrender just four hits over 5 2/3 innings. The 23-year-old right-hander's toughest stretch came during a 24-pitch second inning, which began with a Raul Ibanez double and included a six-pitch walk to Moyer.

"He didn't get hit real hard tonight," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He got some nice ground balls. He got in trouble a couple of times with a walk or so and an error, and pitched right out of it."

Like O'Flaherty in the sixth and Soriano in the eighth, Jurrjens benefitted from a stiff wind that was knocking down most anything hit to left or center field.

While not nearly as masterful as the eight-scoreless-inning performance he tossed at this park last July 25, Jurrjens' effort proved to be just as effective. In three career starts at Citizens Bank Park, he is 2-0 with a 0.87 ERA.

"The kid is good," Jones said. "He's just flat-out good. You love his poise out there. You knew he had to get some quick outs there in the middle innings to be able to go six innings for us."

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