But as Jair Jurrjens made an early exit and they bid adieu to a seven-game winning streak with an ugly 9-0 loss to the Giants on Tuesday night, the Braves were grounded and re-minded that they are among the many teams that could bene-fit from making a trade by the end of this month.
Along with surrendering at least nine runs for the sixth time this year, the Braves tallied just three hits during the seven strong innings produced by Giants left-hander Barry Zito. This marked Atlanta's first shutout loss since it was blanked in consecutive games by the Orioles on June 16 and 17.
It is not a secret that the Braves have shown definite inter-est in Zack Greinke, Ryan Dempster and some of the other starting pitchers who could be available via trade. Their con-cerns about their rotation have lessened courtesy of the re-cent arrival of Ben Sheets and the success Jurrjens had en-joyed since returning from a two-month demotion to Triple-A Gwinnett.
But while allowing the Giants eight earned runs and eight hits in 3 1/3 innings, Jurrjens certainly did not look like he had in the previous four starts he had made since returning from the Majors. Pitching for the first time since July 8, the veteran hurler struggled with his command and fell victim to some lackadaisical errors, including one of his own.
The Giants took control of the game and gave Zito plenty of cushion during a six-run fourth inning that began when Jurrjens did not touch first base while attempting to cover the bag on Angel Pagan's grounder to the right side. Three batters later with runners at second and third base, Zito snuck an RBI single under third baseman Chipper Jones' glove.
Jurrjens then walked Gregor Blanco before seeing his night end with Ryan Theriot and Melky Cabrera recording consecutive bases-loaded RBI singles. Buster Posey then highlighted his five-RBI night by greeting left-handed re-liever Luis Avilan with a three-run double off the left-center-field wall.
While Jurrjens was not as impressive as he had been while posting a 2.13 ERA in his four previous starts, the damage might not have been as severe had he and Jones converted what appeared to be easy outs long before the fourth inning spiraled out of control. Zito's soft single past Jones was his third hit since the start of the 2011 season.
There was some indication the Braves might be in for a long night when second-base umpire D.J. Reyburn ruled Blanco safe after Dan Uggla seemed to clearly tag him as he attempted to steal second in the first inning. Posey later scored Blanco with a double to left field.
After Braves center fielder Michael Bourn reacted slowly, Cabrera turned a single into a double in the third inning. Posey followed with an RBI single that drew loud applause from his friends and family members who traveled from his hometown of Leesburg, Ga.
Martin Prado's fourth-inning single stood as the Braves' only hit until Brian McCann bounced a single up the middle in the fifth inning. Freddie Freeman's two-out, seventh-inning double served as the only other blemish for Zito, who has posted a 2.03 ERA in six career starts against Atlanta.