ATLANTA — Jair Jurrjens was anxious after spending “the worst two months in my life” on the disabled list with a hamstring injury.
A successful return calmed his nerves and boosted Atlanta’s hopes in the NL East.
Jurrjens gave up one run and had a run-scoring single, and the first-place Braves beat the Washington Nationals 4-1 on Wednesday night.
Jurrjens (1-3) gave up six hits and one run in five innings in his first major league start since injuring his left hamstring on April 29. He struck out six with two walks.
“I was nervous,” Jurrjens said. “You sit out for two months and you don’t know what is going to happen.”
The Braves also had reason for concern as they awaited the return of one of their top pitchers from the last two seasons.
“I didn’t know,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “I thought he would pitch good, but not like he always did, the very first time out. I didn’t have a read on it. And he was the same old ace. Just overpowering.”
The Nationals didn’t know what to expect either.
“He was really sharp, especially for someone just starting back in the big leagues,” said Adam Dunn, who had two hits for Washington.
The Braves’ strong pitching continued after Jurrjens’ exit.
Four Atlanta relievers combined to give up two hits in four scoreless innings. Billy Wagner gave up a leadoff single to Ivan Rodriguez in the ninth before striking out Cristian Guzman, Alberto Gonzalez and Ian Desmond to earn his 16th save.
Wagner posted his second straight save with three strikeouts in the ninth.
Jurrjens, who was a combined 27-20 with a 3.10 ERA in his first two seasons, has had health problems most of the year.
He was slowed in spring training by inflammation in his right shoulder and suffered a setback with his hamstring on May 10.
Jurrjens led 3-0 after five innings and was pulled after giving up singles to Ryan Zimmerman and Dunn and walking Josh Willingham with no outs in the sixth. Zimmerman scored when Rodriguez hit into a double play against right-hander Peter Moylan.
Jurrjens said he wasn’t tired.
“I started to think too much and get in trouble,” he said.
Jurrjens returned to a team leading the NL East.
“I was a little nervous to come back,” he said. “I didn’t think they needed me anymore.”
Martin Prado led off the first with a double off J.D. Martin (0-4) and scored on Brian McCann’s two-out double.
The Braves added two runs off Martin in the fourth.
Jurrjens, a .109 career hitter, surprised the Nationals’ infield when he pulled back from his bunt stance and lined a run-scoring single to left. Jurrjens’ first hit of the season drove in Eric Hinske, who led off with a single.
“That was the difference, Jurrjens’ hit,” Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. “That was good baseball on their part.”
Prado’s fly ball to left drove in Gregor Blanco later in the fourth for a 3-0 lead.
Martin gave up six hits and three runs in five innings. He has not won in nine starts since his last win on Sept. 18, 2009, at the Mets.
Washington relievers Doug Slaten and Miguel Batista combined for two walks and two hit batters to help the Braves add a run in the seventh.
NOTES: SS Gonzalez moved to RF in the seventh. It was his first career appearance in the outfield. ... RHP Cristhian Martinez was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett to make room for Jurrjens on the roster. ... The Braves are 28-9 at home. ... Braves minor league RHP Arodys Vizcaino, who was acquired from the Yankees as an important part of the offseason deal that sent RHP Javier Vazquez to New York, has a partially torn right elbow ligament and is expected to miss six weeks. He was examined in Atlanta on Wednesday. Vizcaino leads Class A Rome with nine wins.