It’s hard to win three out of four games, including back-to-back by shutout, like the Braves did against the Rockies and come away frustrated. But that’s what the Braves were facing Thursday, as they headed for New York after a 1-0 win at Turner Field.
The Braves have won each their past two games while scoring once on an unearned run, not exactly momentum-building stuff. They’ve left that up to their pitchers. Tim Hudson pitched seven shutout innings Thursday, like Mike Minor had the night before, and the Braves used more solid bullpen work to move 3 ½ games ahead of the Cardinals in the NL wild card and five up on the Pirates and Dodgers.
“Winning the last two games the way we’ve done it makes us feel good as a staff,” said Hudson, now 14-5 with a 3.59 ERA. “We haven’t really been able to get a lot of credit this year, but it’s been nice to be able to squeak out some wins and let our staff have a time to put our chest out a little bit.”
Peter Moylan, Eric O’Flaherty and closer Craig Kimbrel, who recorded seven outs in the past two games, capped off 19 straight scoreless innings by the Braves to close out the series.
The Braves offense, meanwhile, spent the afternoon just itching for a clutch hit. They went only 3-for-35 with runners in scoring position during the series and scored their only run Thursday after the pitcher Jhoulys Chacin dropped a throw back from the catcher.
“We got a little bit lucky right there,” said Hudson, who saw a game end that way in Oakland after Angels closer Franciscso Rodriguez dropped a throw back to the mound. “But we’ll take them any way we can get them.”
Francisco, nicknamed “Roadrunner” by teammates who kid him for his lack of speed, dropped down a bunt for a single to lead off the second inning. He took third base on a Dan Uggla double to right field and scored after Chacin took his eye off a throw back from the catcher. It was the second straight day the Braves netted their only run on an error.
“Thank goodness that Juan-y was heads up and able to score that run,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
The Braves loaded the bases in both the third and fourth innings and came up empty, including once with nobody out. Jason Heyward threw his bat down in disgust after popping up for the second out in the fourth inning, a similar reaction to one Brian McCann had made after popping up to end the third. But overall, Gonzalez said the Braves are maintaining their cool.
“(Hitting coach Greg Walker) was just telling me ‘The place I’ve been eight years, people (would be) throwing helmets and cussing and yelling in the dugout and panicking,’” said Gonzalez, who was referring to Walker’s previous eight years with the Chicago White Sox. “’And not from the players.’ They don’t need that from me or the coaching staff. We’ve just got to keep them going. Keep getting on base, keep playing good defense, pitching and it’ll come around.”
The Braves went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners. The only hit in those situations came on Martin Prado’s single with Hudson at second base, and the pitcher had to hold up at third. That broke an 0-for-27 streak since with runners in scoring position since David Ross’ two-run double in the third inning on Monday.
The best news for the Braves was that the Rockies were doing the same thing. They stranded eight runners of their own, while going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position Thursday, and 3-for-28 in the series.
Hudson threw 10 of his first 15 pitches for balls, including a four-pitch walk to Jordan Pacheco, in the first inning. But after giving up four hits to the first 11 batters he faced, Hudson allowed only two to the last 18 batters he faced.
“It was one of those games where I had to mix everything up, change eye levels and wasn’t overpowering by any means,” Hudson said. “But just bobbed and weaved and smoke and mirrored them a little bit.”