The Atlanta Braves secured another vital win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, when Tim Hudson out-dueled Cliff Lee en route to a 2-1 victory to secure the seires and extend their Wild Card lead.
Hudson reversed his previous course after two shaky outings and threw 7 1/3 innings while giving up only one unearned run.
"I had a couple bullpens this time through and really worked on some things," Hudson said. "I am just trying to get my pitches a little more crisp and my arm slots where I want them to be. Today was a great step in that direction. I felt really good about where I was pretty much all day."
Hudson's lone unearned run was of his own effort in the sixth inning. He walked Jimmy Rollins to start the inning before allowing Rollins to move to second on a bad pick-off attempt. After Juan Pierre bunted over Rollins, Chase Utley hit a sacrifice fly.
Apart from that, Hudson was nearly perfect. The walk to Rollins was the only one he surrendered, and he gave up just two singles to the Philies.
"I had a pretty good two-seamer going that I was locating pretty well, especially off the opposite-arm side," Hudson said. "I was able to stay on the pitch and have good action on it. It was a fun day for me. It's a time of the year when you want to clean up your delivery and start making better pitches."
David Ross and Dan Uggla provided all the support Hudson needed in the second and third innings, further plaguing Lee's erratic season. Lee took the hard luck loss with two earned runs and nine hits over eight innings.
Ross got the Braves' offense started in the second inning with a solo homer to dead center.
The third inning could have blown the game open for Atlanta but secured the win nonetheless. Reed Johnson started things with a soft single up the middle followed by Maritn Prado's bloop single to left. Lee then faced a jam when he couldn't handle Jason Heyward's grounder to load the bases for Uggla. Uggla just missed hitting a grand slam with the wind blowing straight in, instead settling for a towering sacrifice fly.
The win brought an appropriate end to the season series with the Phillies, who ended the Braves' epic meltdown last September with a loss to knock them out of the playoffs. It just happens this year that the Braves took 12 of the 18 games the teams played, and that difference very well could keep Philadelphia out of the playoffs.
"It's never anything personal, but they're kind of in the way of where we're trying to get," Uggla said. "It's nice to come up here and take two out of three. Whether or not they make the playoffs, we're not focused on trying to keep them out. We're just focused on trying to go in the right direction."
The win trimmed the Braves' magic number to clinch a playoff spot to two. If the Braves win and the Milwaukee Brewers lose anytime over the next nine games, the Braves will at least be in the Wild Card play-in game.
They also have their sights set on the National League East title after the Washington Nationals' loss to the Brewers shrank their lead in the division to 4 1/2 games. It would almost take a miracle to overtake that lead in nine games, but the Nationals play the rest of their games against teams over .500, while the Braves have none.
"We've still got some games left and we're looking to make this thing as interesting as we can," Uggla said.
The Braves will take advantage of an off day Monday before stating a three-game set with the Miami Marlins.
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