The Braves were looking for a little continuity Friday – not easy after a four-day lay-off for the All-Star break, a 16-minute power delay at Turner Field and a near emergency situation at shortstop.
Down to 24 players on their active roster, the Braves watched a second shortstop leave with a pinkie finger injury in a matter of two games, first Andrelton Simmons on Sunday, then Jack Wilson on Friday.
Still they pieced together a 7-5 win over the Mets and extended their winning streak to five games. The Braves stayed within four games of the Nationals, while moving 1 ½ games ahead of the Mets in second place in the NL East.
“I’m obviously disappointed in my performance there in that fourth and fifth innings, but it was a really good win for us as a team,” said Tim Hudson who allowed the Mets four runs in the fourth inning to pull within 5-4. “The guys really picked me up. That’s a sign of what good teams are supposed to do.”
Brian McCann missed Friday’s game for the birth of his son, putting a hold on his streak of four consecutive games with a home run. But his backup David Ross picked up where he left off, hitting a three-run homer off Chris Young to make that five straight games with home runs by Braves catchers.
Chipper Jones gave the Braves some breathing room with a solo home run in the two-run sixth, bringing him within one RBI of George Brett’s record for players whose primary position was third base. Jones’ 1,595th career RBI came on the 29th career pitch for reliever Josh Edgin, who made his major league debut Friday at Turner Field.
The 40-year-old Jones went 2-for-4 and used a third-inning double to extend his hitting streak to 14 games, his longest streak since hitting safely in a career-high 20 straight games in 2006.
Ross drove in four runs, including a bases-loaded walk. The Braves drew 11 walks in the game, four of them from Ross.
“Our whole team was disciplined and took advantage of their pitching mistakes,” Ross said. “The big hits cost them tonight.”
The Braves’ streak of five consecutive quality starts ended with Hudson going only four-plus innings, his shortest outing of the year. Still between the run support, the Braves bullpen behind him and Martin Prado’s versatility, the Braves won for the fourth time in Hudson’s past five starts.
Down to one regular shortstop in Wilson and trying to hold on until they could complete a trade for a replacement for injured Simmons, the Braves watched Wilson leave in the fourth inning after dislocating his right pinkie finger trying to field a groundball off Hudson’s glove.
Prado, showing his super utility roots, moved to shortstop for the first time since playing two games there in 2008. He fielded his first chance on a grounder up the middle and flipped to Dan Uggla from behind second base, like he’d been there all along, to end a treacherous fourth inning.
“I try to do everything I can to make all my teammates and coaches and everybody confident and comfortable with the way I play everywhere,” Prado said. “I’m going to do whatever I can, my best, anywhere I play.”
He prepared by taking some groundballs during batting practice and relied on Uggla and Jones to help him get in position during the game. He admitted to being nervous though.
“I was scared, to be honest with you, because I knew when (Cristhian) Martinez was pitching, I was like ‘Oh man, he’s a groundball guy,’” Prado said. “And then you’ve got (Eric) O’Flaherty. He’s a groundball guy too.”
The Mets rallied on Hudson by scoring three runs on back-to-back pitches to Scott Hairston (RBI double) and Kirk Nieuwenhuis (two-run single). Hudson then tried to field a groundball by Josh Thole and redirected it to shallow center where Wilson drove his finger into the ground trying to field it. Ruben Tejada followed with an RBI single.
Hudson’s night ended after 88 pitches in the fifth inning after he gave up a single and a walk. Martinez walked his first batter in relief to load the bases, but worked out of the jam with back-to-back strikeouts and a fly-out to earn the win. Hudson was the first Brave to the top step to congratulate him coming off.
“I thought the big inning was Cristhian Martinez getting out of that situation, facing those left-handers in the middle of the lineup,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “And he got it done.”
Storms had rolled through before the game, but the game started without issue. That changed in the second inning when the stadium lights went out with Hudson facing Josh Thole with two outs and a runner on. He and the Braves left the field while the stadium officials worked to restore power. He returned 16 minutes later to strike out Thole and end the inning.
“It was a little weird,” Hudson said. “It was nice going out there and only having to get one out.”