The Atlanta Braves desperately needed a solid outing from their starting pitching after Derek Lowe's implosion Friday night. Tim Hudson stepped up in what can only be described as a clutch outing against the New York Mets to help Atlanta extend its Wild Card lead.
Hudson locked horns with R.A. Dickey in one of the more memorable pitchers duels of the year, though Hudson's eight-inning shutout effort was just long enough for Chipper Jones to come through in the bottom of the eighth to give the Braves a 1-0 win.
The Braves had been shut down to the tune of two hits over the first seven innings by the Mets knuckleballer. The fateful eighth inning, however, started with a walk to Jason Heyward, which was followed by Jose Constanza moving him over with a sacrifice bunt. Michael Bourn moved Heyward to third with a grounder to the right side, and Martin Prado walked to put runners at the corners with two outs.
New York elected to pitch to Chipper Jones instead of walking him to get to Dan Uggla, who is hitless in his career against Dickey. Jones made them pay when poked a knuckler up the middle to score the only run of the game.
"Considering where we are, how we've let some games slip in the last week or two, I think this was a huge win," Hudson said. "Losing wasn't an option today. We had to go out there and do whatever it took to win. We didn't get much, but we got enough."
Before that, Hudson hurled one of his best starts of 2011. The Mets mustered only four hits over his eight innings and struck out 10 times.
"Huddy was outstanding," Jones said. "That's the Huddy we all know and love. Hopefully, this kind of re-energizes the ballclub and gets us back on the winning track."
Hudson only got in trouble a couple of times but always managed to wiggle out of it. He allowed the first two batters to reach in the third before he struck out Dickey and induced an inning-ending double play from Jose Reyes.
Hudson also had two runners on with one out in the sixth, but got Angel Pagan to fly out and David Wright to hit into a force play to end the inning.
Hudson had been 1-3 with a 5.55 in his previous four starts, but he said he made an adjustment during his last outing in St. Louis that carried over.
:"It’s something I battled with for two or three starts. I had a little bit of a hard time figuring out what it was. It was good to figure it out now. Make that adjustment and have a little success with it, hopefully go into these last couple starts finishing strong," Hudson said.
The biggest thing about the win for the Braves is that it, coupled with the St. Louis Cardinals' loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, extended their Wild Card lead over St. Louis to 4.5 games. The Braves' magic number now stands at seven with 10 games left.
Brandon Beachy (7-2, 3.43 ERA) will look to keep things rolling opposite Dillon Gee (12-6, 4.37 ERA) at 1:35 EDT.
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