Brian McCann and Chipper Jones hit solo home runs early in the game, and Tim Hudson rebounded from his previous outing to deliver a strong pitching performance as the Atlanta Braves defeated the Washington Nationals 5-2 Thursday night.
McCann hit a solo shot in the bottom of the first inning to stake Hudson to a 1-0 lead, and the Nationals never got any closer. After Jones' homer and an RBI single by Eric Hinske gave Atlanta a 3-0 cushion, Hudson gave up his only run of the game on a home run by Jayson Werth. Hudson left after six innings with five strikeouts and only two walks.
“Good outing, very good outing," manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Hudson's performance. "We had a couple nice double plays early in the game, get him out of some jams. Very good outing. We swung the bats just enough to get him some support early on.”
Despite the strong outing, Hudson was not too happy about being taken out of the game after six innings. He was visibly displeased but later softened his stance, realizing the importance of being strong and ready for the playoffs.
“I never want to come out of a game, whether I’m pitching well or giving it up," Hudson said. "I like to go out there and compete. It is what it is. Our bullpen is deep and we’re going to have some September callups. My innings count has gotten up to a pretty high number. It might be smart to start backing off at this point in the year, and save some stuff for down the stretch.”
The Nationals made it interesting in the top of the eighth inning. They loaded the bases with one out against Jonny Venters, but they managed to only push one run across before Venters settled down and struck out the last two batters he faced.
Craig Kimbrel struck out the side in the ninth to record his 42nd save. He extended his scoreless innings streak to 34 2/3 innings, surpassing Cliff Lee for the longest mark this season.
Jason Heyward and Alex Gonzalez joined McCann and Jones as the offensive heroes of the game. Heyward recorded two hits and is starting to resemble the Heyward of last season, and Gonzalez had two RBI on a single and a sacrifice fly.
Jones, finally healthy after dealing with knee and hamstring issues, has been putting on an offensive clinic as of late, hitting four homers with a .306 average in his past ten games.
“Yeah, I feel good," Jones said. "I feel better than a 1-for-4 indicates. Obviously it’s good I hit another homer, but I gave away three at-bats. That kind of gets the best of me whenever that happens. I had a guy that suited me real well and I got pitches to hit all night. And with the exception of the first at-bat, I just flat-out missed them.”
The Braves will send Brandon Beachy (7-2, 3.31 ERA) to the hill against Chad Billingsley (10-10, 4.08 ERA) Friday night in the opener of a three game set against the Los Angeles Dodgers at 7:35 EDT.
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