(AP) — Jair Jurrjens was named the NL’s top pitcher for May. He may be the best in baseball all season, and the New York Mets are well aware of it.
Jurrjens looks to gain a share of baseball’s lead in victories as the Atlanta Braves face the Mets in the middle game of this series Saturday night.
Jurrjens (7-1, 1.51 ERA) was outstanding last month, going 5-1 with a 1.65 ERA. He won his last two starts while allowing one run and 12 hits in 15 2-3 innings.
The right-hander leads the majors in ERA, and a victory Saturday would tie him with Pittsburgh’s Kevin Correia for the most in the majors. Fellow seven-game winners Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse of St. Louis are also scheduled to make starts.
Jurrjens had seven victories all of last season when injuries limited him to 20 starts. He started this year on the disabled list with an oblique injury, but matched that win total Sunday, yielding one run in eight innings of a 2-1 win over Cincinnati.
He’s the fourth pitcher to allow two or fewer earned runs and pitch at least six innings in each of his first nine starts of a season, joining Randy Johnson (2000), Lefty Gomez (1937) and Ubaldo Jimenez, who set the record last year when he did it in his first 12 starts.
“It’s an honor,” Jurrjens told the team’s official website. “It’s not easy to be a starting pitcher in this league.”
Jurrjens is 8-2 with a 2.54 ERA in 11 starts versus the Mets (26-31). He turned in a dominant effort against the NL East rivals in his season debut April 16, scattering two hits in seven innings of a 4-0 victory.
His last appearance at Citi Field wasn’t quite as enjoyable, as he suffered a torn meniscus during a side session Sept. 17, and the Braves (31-26) lost him for the playoffs.
“It’s going to be awkward going out there to warm up,” Jurrjens said. “Things happen for a reason.”
Atlanta has enjoyed visiting the Mets, winning four in a row and 13 of 19 at Citi Field after Friday’s 6-3 victory.
New York’s last six home losses all have come in games in which they led in the seventh inning, setting a major league record.
“They’re aware of exactly what’s going on,” manager Terry Collins said. “They talked about it.”
The Mets have won just four times in 13 games, and Dillon Gee (5-0, 3.83) has two of them. All seven of the rookie right-hander’s starts have ended in New York victories, including a 3-2 win over Atlanta on April 17, when Gee conceded one run in 5 2-3 innings.
He won a third consecutive start Monday, allowing three runs and five hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings of a 7-3 win over Pittsburgh.
“He’s the best I’ve been around for a guy that young at this level,” Collins told the team’s official website. “Nothing bothered him, and he just keeps pitching. He gets the ball back and he keeps pitching.”
Gee was charged with a 4-2 loss in his only home start against the Braves on Sept. 18, giving up three runs in seven innings.
Atlanta may not have Jordan Schafer available after he was hit in the face with a foul tip on an attempted bunt to leadoff the fifth Friday. He fell to the ground holding his face before being examined by trainers and transported to a hospital for X-rays.