Tim Hudson might have spent a little more time bobbing and weaving – as he would say – than he wanted to Sunday against the Pirates, but he brought maturity, some stability, and a little of fire back to the Braves rotation.
Making his first start since November back surgery, Hudson worked five gutsy innings, allowing two runs on six hits, and collected his first win of the season in a 4-3 victory.
Hudson was on a pitch count of no more than 100 pitches, so he came out after 96 pitches, but his message was sent. The Braves’ ace was back.
“Everybody was pumped up,” said left fielder Martin Prado, who drove in what turned out to be the winning run on a home run in the seventh. “He is one of those guys who goes out there and performs and gives everything he has and gives you a chance. He kept us in the game. He’s a battle guy. We love to have him back.”
Not too long after Hudson took the mound at Turner Field, Jair Jurrjens began his stint with Triple-A Gwinnett – pitching seven innings in Toledo, OH, and allowing one earned run on four hits, three walks and striking out four. While Jurrjens tries to regain his top-of-the-rotation form and took a good first step, the Braves were happy to see their stalwart back in action.
As well as the Braves have played as a team – now 14-8 – and as promising a start as Tommy Hanson, Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy are off to, the average age of the other four starters in the Braves rotation is 24. (Hanson, 25, Beachy, 25, Minor, 24, and Randall Delgado, 22.)
The 36-year-old Hudson is their ace and a proven big-game pitcher. The last time he pitched at Turner Field before Sunday was when he went six strong innings, allowing one run, against the Phillies in the last game of the 2011 season. The photo of Hudson yelling after an out – a 4-3 loss despite his efforts – captured an intensity that the Braves welcome back.
“Any time you see Tim Hudson come back and pitch, you know he’s going to be a bulldog out there,” second baseman Dan Uggla said.
Hudson walked two batters and hit another Sunday but struck out six. He pitched from the stretch in each of his five innings but gave up runs in only the second inning on Jose Tabata’s two-run single with the bases loaded. That was the Pirates’ only hit in 10 at-bats against Hudson with runners in scoring position.
“Those guys battled me all day, but it was fun to go out there and compete,” Hudson said.
He was not his sharpest, but plenty feisty. He had a glare for home plate umpire Doug Eddings in the fourth inning after he called a ball on an 0-1 pitch to Alex Presley that appeared to cross the plate. Eddings took exception and the two had words, drawing Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez out of the dugout.
“Let’s just say we had a disagreement,” Hudson said. “It is what it is. Everybody is out there trying to compete and win ballgames. I’m going to go out there and not back down from anything.”
Pastornicky’s confidence is on the rise
Three days off did the trick for Tyler Pastornicky. The Braves sat the rookie shortstop for three games on their trip out west, giving him a chance to clear his head, and it’s apparent he used the time to its full advantage.
Pastornicky was hitting .175 when Gonzalez decided to give him some time to work with hitting coaches Greg Walker and Scott Fletcher. He’s hit safely in the five games since his return, while going 8-for-16 (.500) to raise his season batting average to .263.
Pastornicky said the biggest difference has been mental.
“The guys on the team have been awesome, comforting me and letting me know that I am good enough to be here,” Pastornicky said. “It’s something where I’ve got to get comfortable with that fact. It’s been a lot better. I don’t think it was really anything physical or mechanically. I think it was getting comfortable up there again. Once that started to happen, you get your swagger back.”
Pastornicky said he also watched some video of the success he had last year in Triple-A Gwinnett, when he hit .365 in 27 games. He also went back to using some old pre-game drills, getting back to his old routine.
“Just some simple drills, soft toss drills, working on keeping my bat path straight,” Pastornicky said. “It doesn’t really sound like a whole lot, but once you get that feeling back some things start clicking.”