Hudson off his game in loss to Phillies
Chipper suffers strained left quad, leaves as precaution
PHILADELPHIA -- With Tim Hudson on the mound and the momentum of a thrilling Sunday afternoon victory still fresh, all indications were that the Braves would have a good chance to begin this week's four-game series against the Phillies on a positive note. But then again, they really didn't know what to expect from Eude Brito.
What they found was that the Phillies rookie lefty was up to the challenge of facing a hot offense and more than capable of taking advantage of what was one of Hudson's least effective outings in more than a month.
With Hudson not able to perform enough damage control and their offense being baffled by yet another unfamiliar pitcher on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park, the Braves dropped a 4-1 decision to the Phillies, who are fighting to gain entry into the postseason.
"It's just one of those games," Hudson said. "They beat us. I didn't pitch good enough and we didn't hit good enough."
With less than three weeks remaining in the season, this wasn't just another game for either team. The Braves are striving to maintain a division lead that slipped to six games over the Marlins. As for the Phillies, they are fighting for position in the tight National League Wild Card race. They are a half-game behind the Astros, who now trail the front-running Marlins by the same slim margin.
"When you're playing teams that are playing for something, they are bringing their A-game to the table every night and trying to beat you," Hudson said. "At the same time, we should be bringing our A-game to the table every night as well. Tonight, whether we did or didn't, it just wasn't good enough to win."
With Hudson allowing four runs -- three earned -- in six innings and the offense -- which had averaged 5.7 runs per game in their previous 10 games -- producing just four hits, there weren't too many positives for the Braves. The evening's events will be even worse if the strained left quad that forced Chipper Jones to exit after six innings proves to be more significant than currently believed.
Jones injured the quad while charging to field Kenny Lofton's bunt single in the third inning. He aggravated it while charging out of the box trying to prevent what turned out to be an inning-ending double play in the fifth. The Braves will assess Jones' condition again on Tuesday to get a better idea of whether he can return this week.
"I didn't see any point in pushing it," Jones said. "One-run game or a tie game or something like that, maybe. But there's too much to lose to stay in there and hurt it any worse."
When Jones exited, the Phillies held a 4-0 lead that was aided by the strong performance of Brito, who was making just his third start and fourth appearance in the Majors. The unfamiliarity helped the 27-year-old left-hander, who limited the Braves to three hits in six scoreless innings.
"We've never done real well against guys that we haven't seen before," Jones said. "If we face that guy in a week, I'm sure it will be a little bit different story. He got the best of us tonight. He's got good stuff. Chalk it up to never seeing him before and Huddy not being spot on."
Hudson, who was gunning to win his fifth consecutive decision and beat the Phillies for the third time in three starts against them this year, struggled with control in his 103-pitch outing. He issued two walks, including one to Bobby Abreu that loaded the bases with two outs in the third inning.
Pat Burrell made Hudson pay when he followed the walk to Abreu with a sharp grounder to center that resulted in a two-run single. That was more than enough support for Brito, who didn't allow a hit until Brian Jordan provided a two-out single in the fifth.
"Brito I thought was outstanding," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He changed speeds and did everything. His control was great."
Hudson, who had allowed the Phillies just three earned runs in his previous 13 innings against them this year, got into further trouble when each of the first four batters he faced in the fifth reached safely. He barely brushed Chase Utley on the foot with a pitch to load the bases with nobody out. That set the stage for the Phillies to tally two more runs with the help of Atlanta's usually sure-handed defense.
Marcus Giles was unable to record an out on a Abreu grounder. Two batters later, Giles and Rafael Furcal were unable to turn a potential inning-ending double play against Ryan Howard. Consequently, the Phillies had their four-run lead.
"I feel like I threw the ball all right," Hudson said. "I think my command could have been a little better early in the count. I think with a little bit of luck it could have been a little closer."
Hudson attempted to begin a Braves rally with a leadoff double off the center field wall in the sixth. Two batters later. Giles followed with an infield single off Brito. But the left-hander escaped trouble by getting Jones to ground into the inning-ending double play.
The one positive the Braves received offensively came when Todd Hollandsworth drilled a pinch-hit solo homer off Ugueth Urbina in the eighth. It ended Hollandsworth's 0-for-11 slump and gave him his first home run since joining the Braves on Aug. 30.
During the final three games of this series, the Braves will attempt to get back on track and resume their fight for a 14th consecutive division title. As they have to keep reminding themselves, nothing has been accomplished yet.
"We're trying to put some distance between us and all the guys behind us," Hudson said. "We want to try to get guys out of it and beat them. With every game that we win and every day that clicks off the calendar, we're looking a whole lot better."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.