video thumbnail

WSH@ATL: Hudson singles home Ross in the third inning

ATLANTA -- Confident they can earn a postseason berth in a second straight season, the Braves started this year's second half in an impressive fashion that distanced them from the offensive concerns that followed them through the first half.

Nate McLouth and Dan Uggla contributed to the four-run first inning that gave Tim Hudson plenty of cushion while he enjoyed his own success at the plate and helped the Braves come out of the All-Star break with an 11-1 win -- the 10,000th victory in franchise history -- over the Nationals on Friday night at Turner Field.

"You never know what's going to happen after the break," Hudson said. "We [were] playing some really good baseball at the end of the first half. The guys came out, played hard and had some good at-bats. Obviously, they helped us out kicking it around a little bit, but that's part of the game as well."

As the Braves totaled 13 hits and took advantage of five Nationals errors, they did not look like the team that entered the break ranking among the National League's bottom three teams in batting average and on-base percentage. Instead, at the expense of Livan Hernandez, they showed what they're capable of doing when Martin Prado is present and Uggla is contributing.

Fueled by the first-inning uprising, the Braves essentially cruised to that 10,000th win. The Giants (10,489) and Cubs (10,278) are the only other franchises to record 10,000 wins in Major League games according to the Elias Sports Bureau. They do not recognize the Dodgers or Cardinals among those to accomplish the feat, whose wins in the American Association do not count toward their Major League Baseball win total.

Nationals manager Davey Johnson helped build that total while hitting 43 homers for the 1973 Braves. He remained in Atlanta the following season and played one game in '75 before being released by the organization.

"They have been around," Johnson said. "They have been a great franchise. Great players have come through here. You tip your hat to them."

Playing for the first time since he was diagnosed with a staph infection on June 9, Prado matched the multihit performances produced by Hudson, McLouth and Freddie Freeman. He drilled a fourth-inning leadoff homer and played flawless defense while manning third base in place of Chipper Jones, who is recovering from an arthroscopic surgical procedure on his right knee.

"I felt different tonight," Prado said. "In [a couple rehab games], I didn't feel pumped up. But tonight, with everybody expecting the [10,000th win], it gave me the boost to do what I could do."

While producing the seventh multihit of his career with a third-inning single and sixth-inning double, Hudson limited the Nationals to one run and seven hits over seven innings. He surrendered back-to-back singles to begin the game and created an early first-inning deficit. But after allowing at least two runners to reach safely in each of the first three innings, he retired 13 of the final 15 batters he faced.

"He made some nice pitches," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I think him and [catcher David Ross] made some nice pitches in those innings. And I think he just got better as the game went on. He was trying to talk me into another inning. He was good."

Hudson certainly didn't have to sweat much on the way to improving to 12-3 with a 1.97 ERA in 21 career starts against the Nationals. One day after celebrating his 36th birthday, he was gifted with a four-run first inning that began with Jordan Schafer reaching second courtesy of two errors charged to Mike Morse on the same play.

Freeman began his three-RBI performance with a game-tying single, and Uggla followed by lacing an RBI double past third base. It was the seventh extra-base hit in the past seven games for the veteran second baseman, who totaled nine extra-base hits in 26 June games and entered Friday's game with a .185 batting average.

"I thought we were patient with Livan," Gonzalez said. "He made some mistakes over the plate, which he usually doesn't. We scored some runs. We also took advantage of some miscues on their part, which is good to see, too, because we've been in that situation and not gotten nothing. It's nice to see. Good all-around effort by the entire team."

Even while burdened by Uggla's inconsistencies most of the season's first half, the Braves still entered the All-Star break with the NL's second-best record and a five-game advantage in the Wild Card standings.

With Prado's valuable bat back in their lineup, the Braves know they could prove quite dangerous if they continue to gain regular contributions from Uggla and McLouth, who had recorded just two multhit games in his previous 37 starts dating back to May 5.

McLouth notched a first-inning RBI single and then singled again to help extend the third inning long enough for Hudson to record his RBI single.

Hudson has gone 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA in his past five starts. But there's no doubt much of the excitement he carried out of this outing came because he made significant contributions to the offensive charge.

"It's fun," Hudson said. "We don't have games where we help ourselves out too much, so it was nice to go out and get a couple knocks. The guys really came out and played hard and we scored some runs early." Comments