published Monday, June 20th, 2011

Braves avoid Rangers sweep

ATLANTA — If his first two innings were an indication, Jair Jurrjens wondered if the Georgia heat might be too much to overcome against the Texas Rangers.

“They’d get two strikes and shorten their swings and they kept fouling off pitches,” Jurrjens said. “That’s not an easy lineup. You don’t really want to groove one in there and make it a big inning.”

Jason Heyward hit a two-run single in the third inning and Freddie Freeman added an RBI double in the seventh to help Jurrjens earn his ninth victory in the Atlanta Braves’ 4-2 win over the Rangers on Sunday.

The Braves snapped a two-game losing streak, while Texas dropped its ninth in 13 games.

Jurrjens (9-3) allowed one run, seven hits, two walks and struck out four in 5 1/3 innings. The right-hander lowered his NL-best ERA to 2.11, but he wasn’t so sure of his control after losing two of three starts.

“You go through spells like that through the season,” Jurrjens said. “I just try to keep my mindset of going out there and giving my team a chance to win.”

Craig Kimbrel earned his 19th save in 24 chances for Atlanta, striking out Josh Hamilton on three pitches to end it with a runner on first.

Alexi Ogando (7-2) lost his second straight start after giving up five hits and three runs — one earned — with one walk and three strikeouts.

Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba suffered through a difficult third, getting charged with two errors that helped the Braves take a 3-0 lead.

With one out, Jordan Schafer reached on a catcher’s interference call and moved to second when Dan Uggla singled for Atlanta’s first hit.

After a wild pitch to Heyward advanced both runners, Heyward’s two-run single made it 2-0. Heyward moved to third on Freeman’s single and scored for a 3-0 lead when Torrealba collided with first baseman Michael Young on Alex Gonzalez’s popup and was charged with a fielding error.

The error was the Rangers’ 57th, tying them with Oakland for most in the majors.

In the fourth, Torrealba made up for some of his damage with an RBI single that cut the lead to 3-1, but he left the game when Taylor Teagarden took over behind the plate to begin the bottom of the fifth.

Neither Torrealba nor Ogando was available to speak with reporters after the game, a team spokesman said, because both were taking intravenous fluids.

“Even after what happened in the third, I thought we still had a chance to keep picking and pecking away at Jurrjens and that we would probably get something done,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “But the best we could do today was two runs.”

Jurrjens labored through the first two innings, throwing 50 pitches but stranding five baserunners. Other than Torrealba’s hit, Jurrjens settled down until Michael Young singled and David Murphy walked with one out in the sixth.

But Scott Linebrink and George Sherrill combined to retire Teagarden and pinch-hitter Mitch Moreland to end the threat.

“Sometimes it’s not a good thing when you face a guy like [Jurrjens] and he has a high pitch count early on,” Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre said. “My thought was to try and take as many [pitches] as I can, but he made the adjustments he needed to get us out when we had some runners on.”

Hamilton’s RBI groundout in the seventh cut the lead to 3-2. The run was charged to reliever Scott Proctor, who was making his fourth straight appearance and fifth in six games.

Washington used three pitchers in the seventh: Michael Kirkman, Arthur Rhodes and Yoshinori Tateyama.

Rhodes retired Brian McCann on a foul popout before Freeman’s ground-rule double bounced into the left-field seats for a 4-2 lead, scoring Schafer from second and advancing Heyward to third. Freeman went 3-for-4.

Braves left-hander Jonny Venters pitched out of trouble for the last two outs of the seventh and a scoreless eighth to lower his ERA to 0.60, best in the majors.

Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez felt uneasy in the ninth when Elvis Andrus reached on an infield single.

“That’s not a real good feeling,” Gonzalez said, “sitting there on a ground ball to the third baseman and we don’t make a play and here comes Hamilton.”

But Hamilton, the 2010 AL MVP, swung and missed on the game’s last pitch, dropping the Rangers to 3-7 on their road trip.

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