ATLANTA -- After staying composed and bouncing back from a rough start, Tyrell Jenkins was too nervous to watch the realization of a much-anticipated moment. The Braves' rookie pitcher reached his first career milestone while making a sandwich with his back turned to the television in the home clubhouse at
ATLANTA -- After staying composed and bouncing back from a rough start, Tyrell Jenkins was too nervous to watch the realization of a much-anticipated moment. The Braves' rookie pitcher reached his first career milestone while making a sandwich with his back turned to the television in the home clubhouse at Turner Field.
But once Jim Johnson stranded two runners with assistance from the defensive gem Erick Aybar produced at the end of Friday night's 2-1 win over the Phillies, Jenkins did not hide the excitement he felt upon notching his first career victory.
"Words can't explain it," a smiling Jenkins said. "To have your first big league win and just the long road it's been to get here, I'm just excited and can't wait to call my mom and listen to her scream."
After passing up the opportunity to become Robert Griffin III's heir apparent at Baylor University, Jenkins battled injuries during the early years of his professional career with the Cardinals. He joined the Braves courtesy of the Jason Heyward trade last year and made his Major League debut last month as a member of Atlanta's bullpen.
Jenkins didn't necessarily understand the decision to transition him from starter to reliever while he was still with Triple-A Gwinnett in May. But he has come to appreciate the opportunities he has since gained, especially the one to join Atlanta's depleted rotation after the All-Star break. His first two starts in Philadelphia and Cincinnati were much better than the one he experienced on Sunday, when he allowed seven earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings in Denver.
Avoiding a Coors Field hangover, Jenkins used the ugly outing as motivation throughout this week and then delivered the finest outing off his young career, limiting the Phillies to one unearned run and four hits over six innings. He issued an intentional walk in the second inning and three unintentional walks, including two in the fourth. But after issuing that second free pass, he retired each of the final seven batters he faced.
"I couldn't wait for this day to get here," Jenkins said. "I hate sitting on a bad start. [I was] going back and seeing replays and watching film. Every ball that was hit this past Sunday made me ready to get out there tonight. You've got to have a quick memory and move on to the next night. But those bad starts kind of sit with you a little bit, and you can't wait to go back and prove to guys you can pitch on this team and pitch at this level."
Jenkins has attempted to gain more consistent command while pitching only from the stretch during his past three starts. Over the next couple weeks, he will attempt to gain more comfort with his changeup, lower his walk totals and simply build upon the confidence he gained on the way to recording this first win.
"Everything was better tonight, really," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "His velocities were a lot better. I thought his command of the changeup was better and just the whole body of work was better, except for the [fourth] inning."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Listen to his podcast.