MIAMI – On a night when neither veteran pitcher had his best stuff in the early innings, Tim Hudson did what he often does. He persevered and got better as the night wore on, retiring the last 16 batters he faced.
Hudson gave up three runs in the first two innings and nothing over the next five in a 4-3 win against Miami on Tuesday at Marlins Park, snapping the Braves’ three-game losing skid and evening the series at a game apiece.
After Jose Reyes’ two-run homer put Miami ahead 3-1 in the second inning, Hudson (9-4) retired all of the remaining batters he faced in seven innings to win his fourth consecutive start against the Marlins.
“I think everybody gets upset and ticked off when things don’t start out the way you want them to,” said Hudson, who allowed five hits and three runs, with one walk and two strikeouts. “I was able to settle down, get some quicker outs, and guys behind me made some great plays and we were able to scratch out one more run there late. It was a good win for us.
With the score tied at 3-all, Martin Prado led off the seventh with a triple to the gap, just beyond the glove of right fielder Greg Dobbs. Jason Heyward followed with a single that put the Braves ahead to stay. Heyward also walked twice and had a sacrifice fly in the first inning.
Craig Kimbrel pitched a perfect ninth for his National League-leading 29th save.
“After the first couple of innings [Hudson] was outstanding,” said manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose Braves stayed 4-1/2 games behind first-place Washington in the National League East. “He gave us a great chance to win the ballgame, and we won it for him with Prado hitting that triple and Heyward getting him in.
“He did a terrific job. The only thing I wish he would do is stay off the basepath. But that’s him. He ain’t going to stop doing that.”
The Braves chased Marlins left-hander Mark Buehrle from the game after five innings and 95 pitches. He gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits and four walks. He walked Michael Bourn to start the game, and Bourn ended up scoring.
“Fortunately we caught Buehrle on a tough night; normally he doesn’t walk that many guys,” said Hudson, who threw 54 strikes in 80 pitches and improved to 13-4 with a 2.85 ERA in 24 career starts against the Marlins.
Gonzalez chose to pinch-hit for Hudson with one out and nobody on in the eighth inning, and the Braves leading 4-3. Hudson has been bothered by bone spurs in an ankle and ran the bases twice Tuesday, scoring in the third inning after a leadoff single.
“You know, every time we try to push him through that kind of stuff it kind of gives him a setback,” Gonzalez said. “It’s got nothing to do with pitch count with him. It’s a feel thing. He’ll fight you if he feels good. When he came off the field and we said, we’re going to put [Eric] O’Flaherty in in the eighth, he said, ‘Ok.’”
Hudson said the ankle had improved significantly in the past couple of weeks and wasn’t a factor Wednesday, but he didn’t object to coming out.
“I’d been on the bases all night, because I’m a threat up there at the plate these days,” he joked.
There was a frightening moment in the seventh when Dan Uggla was hit in the helmet by a pitch from Marlins reliever Chad Gaudin, who had just entered the game. Uggla, a former Marlin who is in the midst of one of his worst-ever hitting slumps, was struck in the left ear flap. He spoke briefly with a Braves trainer before going to first base, and stayed in the game.
“That’s unbelievable,” Gonzalez said. “It sounded like the ball hit the wall. And he didn’t even have a standing eight count. It was, ‘I’m good.’ I told him to be honest with us and the trainers about checking with us, because those things can flare up in the middle of the night, concussions or anything. But he says he’s fine. He told me it probably hit him in the best spot, his head.”
Buehrle was fortunate early as the Braves let him off the hook a few times while leaving seven runners on in the first four innings.
The Braves had two on with one out in the third inning when Heyward struck out, then had the bases loaded after Chipper Jones’ two-out groundball single to center. Freddie Freeman drew a bases-loaded walk to cut the Marlins’ lead to 3-2, but the Braves left the bases loaded when Uggla flied out to shallow center.
They loaded the bases again in the fourth, after starting the inning with singles by David Ross and Paul Janish. Ross was forced out at third on Hudson’s bunt before Bourn singled. Prado’s sacrifice fly droving in the tying run, and the Braves re-loaded the bases on a Heyward walk before Jones flied out to center.
The Braves had left the bases loaded for the second consecutive inning. But Hudson never buckled after the Reyes homer, keeping the Marlins in check until the Braves finally pushed across another run.
“You’ve got to stop the bleeding,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you just try your best not to let it get away, keep it within striking distance whatever way you can. You’ve just got to settle down, make some pitches and get some quicker outs. I was able to do that tonight.”
Hudson was asked about Reyes standing at the plate to admire his home run.
“I didn’t notice; I heard about it from some of the guys,” Hudson said. “That’s how some guys like to play the game. It’s not my cup of tea. I just worry about winning the ballgame. We’ll see those guys a lot more, I’ll face him a lot more, and see what happens.”