With the Braves in danger of falling behind the Nationals by their largest deficit all season, Tim Hudson was going to find a way to beat the Padres Tuesday night come hell or high water.
That looks like what he was expecting, wearing high socks, with his pants rolled up, something he’d never done in his eight seasons with the Braves, or the six before that with the Oakland A’s.
Hudson said he was turning back the clock, sporting an old look from his Auburn days, and his efforts matched it. Hudson shut out the Padres on two hits for 6 1/3 innings in a 6-0 win.
“I was trying to tap into the fountain of youth,” said Hudson, 37, who hadn’t worn his pants up since Triple-A in 1999. “Trying to make them think I’m young.”
A night after getting shut out by the Padres, the Braves answered with one of their own on the efforts of Hudson and relievers Jonny Venters, Luis Avilan and Craig Kimbrel. The Braves also out-hit the Padres 10-5, including home runs from Dan Uggla and Martin Prado.
Uggla homered to help build Hudson a 3-0 lead, and Martin Prado doubled the score after Hudson left the game with a three-run home run. Prado’s shot off Padres reliever Brad Boxberger was his first home run since June 20 against the Yankees and his sixth of the year.
“I was concentrating so much on hitting homers last year that I was forgetting what brought me here,” said Prado, who had 13 home runs in 2011 but hit a career-low .260. “…Tonight I put a good swing on the ball and concentrated on keeping my swing in the right path, and I got a good pitch to hit. If I hit it out, that’s fine. That’s a plus for me.”
His home run all but assured the Braves would stay within five games of the Nationals, pending the outcome of their game in San Francisco. The Braves are still tied with Pittsburgh for the lead in the wild card.
“It’s getting that time of year where you need to start making some moves,” Hudson said. “We’ve just got to keep playing good baseball, keep putting pressure on (the Nationals) and try to keep encouraging them to sit (Stephen) Strasburg.”
Hudson, who drew a laugh with that last comment, followed up one of his worst starts of the season with one of his best. After giving up five runs in the fifth inning his last time out to spoil a 6-1 lead in Philadelphia, Hudson worked in the bullpen on his mechanics from the stretch.
He didn’t have to test it much Tuesday allowing only three baserunners on two singles and a walk.
“I don’t think it was a game where I felt my best, but I was able to make some pitches,” Hudson said. “I felt confident that I could give us a good chance to win tonight. I felt good in the pen and it was one of those days where it translated to feeling good out there on the field.”
Hudson, now 12-4 with a 3.59 ERA, moved to 8-2 in 12 starts following Braves losses. Had the Braves lost and the Nationals won, the Braves would have been a season-high 6 ½ games back in the NL East.
“There’s no one else I’d rather have out there than Huddy,” Uggla said. “At the same time, I have faith in all of our guys. Huddy has been doing it for a long time. He’s been a big game pitcher his whole career. Every time he goes out in a situation where we need a win, he’s going to come through.”
Hudson walked Chase Headley with two outs in the first inning and didn’t give up another baserunner until Mark Kotsay singled to left field to lead off the fifth. Will Venable and Cameron Maybin lined out on the infield, before Hudson coaxed a comebacker from John Baker.
His only regret might have been an 18-pitch first inning, which cost Hudson on the back end. Manager Fredi Gonzalez came for the ball after Yonder Alonso singled with one out in the seventh inning on Hudson’s 97th pitch.
“That’s about where we wanted him, (pitching coach) Roger (McDowell) and I,” Gonzalez said. “And they had all those lefties coming up also that had had some pretty good swings against him through the course of the game.”
Hudson made a good pitching matchup look lopsided against Clayton Richard, who was coming off a complete-game shutout of the Cubs.
Michael Bourn helped stake Hudson to a 1-0 lead in the first inning with a leadoff triple. Uggla doubled the lead to 2-0 in the fifth with his second homer in five games after going 23 games between his previous homers. The Braves added a third run on singles by Prado, Freeman and Chipper Jones in the sixth, before Prado broke it open in the seventh.