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Jurrjens looks good at the Ted

POSTED: May 18, 2008 5:01 a.m.

ATLANTA The Atlanta Braves are proving tough to beat at home, and rookie starter Jair Jurrjens is leading the way.

Jurrjens improved to 3-0 at Turner Field by pitching six strong innings and the Braves beat the San Diego Padres 5-3 on Tuesday night to improve the NL’s best home record.

Jurrjens (4-2) has a 2.84 ERA overall, including a 1.96 mark ERA in three home starts.

"He’s been tremendous this year," said Chipper Jones, who hit a two-run homer, his 10th. "Words can’t describe how good he’s been and how solid and consistent."

Jurrjens, acquired in the offseason trade that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Detroit, has been especially important as Atlanta lost John Smoltz to the disabled list. Smoltz plans to return as the team’s closer.

Jurrjens has not faltered when asked to step up behind Tim Hudson and Tom Glavine in the rotation.

"Nothing rattles J.J.," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "For his first full year in the big leagues, he’s got great mound presence and carries himself extremely well, on and off the field."

Jurrjens matched his career high with eight strikeouts and gave up seven hits with a walk and one run in six innings.

Mark Kotsay added two hits, including a homer, and drove in two runs. Kotsay also delivered the defensive play of the game in the fifth inning, making an over-the-shoulder catch at the warning track of Tadahito Iguchi’s drive.

The Braves have won four straight, all at home, where they improved to 12-4 overall.

San Diego’s Chris Young (2-3) threw 98 pitches in only five innings, giving up nine hits and five runs.

Brian Giles led off the game with a single and scored on a double to the left-field wall by Adrian Gonzalez for a 1-0 lead. Jurrjens didn’t allow another run.

"I tried to just keep doing what I was planning to do the whole game, just throw strikes and stay ahead of the hitters," Jurrjens said.

Manny Acosta, seeking his third save, was pulled after allowing two hits in the ninth. With one out and runners on first and second, Cox brought in left-hander Royce Ring to face Gonzalez, who already had two RBIs.

Gonzalez hit a long fly ball to right that landed foul as Gonzalez shook his head. Gonzalez then struck out, and Jeff Bennett recorded the final out for his first major league save.

Bennett’s save came as the Braves continue to scramble to fill bullpen roles.

Braves closer Rafael Soriano, on the disabled list since April 9 with a sore elbow, had more pain while trying to throw in the bullpen Tuesday afternoon. Soriano will be examined Wednesday.

Another Atlanta reliever, Peter Moylan, will have elbow surgery — possibly season-ending — on Thursday.

The Braves took a 2-1 lead off Young in the second. Jeff Francoeur hit a one-out double and scored on a single by Kotsay. Gregor Blanco added a run-scoring double.

Jones, who was 7-for-13 with a homer in the Braves’ three-game sweep of Cincinnati, hit the two-run homer in the third after Yunel Escobar’s leadoff single. Jones, 1-for-2 with two walks, is hitting .426.

"I don’t know how he does it, but I hope he keeps doing it the whole season," Jurrjens said. "He’s one of the best."

Young also was impressed after giving up the opposite-field homer to left on a fastball on the outside part of the plate.

"He’s pretty awesome," Young said. "I thought it was a pretty good pitch. Other times, it might have been a fly out, but the way he’s hitting right now, he had the power to drive it out. I wasn’t terribly disappointed with the pitch."

Jones is enjoying an early power surge for the second straight year. He hit his 10th homer last season on May 1, but then had only five more before the All-Star break and hit 29 for the season.

Jones’ homer gave Atlanta a 4-1 lead. Kotsay added his second homer in two games in the fourth for a 5-1 lead.

Young issued an intentional walk to Jones to load the bases in the fourth. The strategy worked; Mark Teixeira followed with an inning-ending fly ball to left field

San Diego right-hander Kevin Cameron threw only three pitches in the sixth before leaving with a sprained right elbow.

Manager Bud Black said Cameron likely will be placed on the disabled list with a first-degree sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament.



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