Jones duo homers as Hudson strong
Five-run third plenty of support for starter against Marlins
ATLANTA -- Over the course of the past two seasons, Chipper Jones patiently awaited the arrival of the dominant form that Tim Hudson has displayed during each of his three starts this season.
Even though the sample size remains small, what Hudson has displayed through the first two weeks of the season gives indication that he's regained that successful form that he had during his days with the A's.
"Huddy continues to just dominate right now," manager Bobby Cox said after Hudson helped the Braves claim an 8-4 win over the Marlins amid chilly conditions at Turner Field on Sunday afternoon. "Every start he's gone out there, he's pitched just like he did today, which was just brilliant."
Hudson may not have been quite as dominant as he was in his first two starts of the season, but after limiting the Marlins to six hits and one earned run over the course of seven innings, he found himself with a miniscule 0.86 season ERA and the recipient of many compliments.
"Huddy was awesome," said Chipper Jones, whose three-run homer highlighted a five-run third inning that chased Marlins starter Scott Olsen and erased the one-run deficit Hudson had garnered after the first inning.
Over the course of the next seven innings, the Marlins' offense was held in check. They wouldn't score again until tallying three runs off a road-weary Peter Moylan in the ninth inning.
While winning five of eight games on this homestand, the Braves were encouraged to see both of their Jones boys heat up. Andruw Jones, who was wearing No. 42 in recognition of Jackie Robinson Day, belted a two-run homer in the fifth inning. Each of his three homers has come over the course of the past five games.
"If it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't be here right now," said Jones, a Latin American player, who hails from Curacao, of Robinson. "It's just a good feeling to go out there and wear his number."
This marked the second time in a span of four games and the 57th time in their careers that the Jones boys have homered in the same game.
"When we are on our game and jump-starting the offense, it's usually a good sign for the rest of the guys," said Chipper Jones, who homered three times and raised his batting average from .227 to .293 over the course of the past five games. "I hope we do it 57 more times. That would be a record, wouldn't it?"
The Jones boys are the active leaders among teammates who have homered in the same game. But they'll need to do so another 18 times to catch Major League Baseball's all-time leaders, Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews, who homered in the same game 75 times for the Braves.
"Andruw is going to have to sign back first and foremost," Chipper Jones said pointing out that his Gold Glove teammate is eligible for free agency after this year. "This could all be a moot point in about five months."
Hudson is living proof that a lot can change over the course of five months. When he finished last season with a career-high 4.86 ERA, many wondered if he'd ever regain the dominance that he had with the A's from 2000-04. During his first two years in Atlanta, he was simply an average pitcher who could occasionally contribute a gem.
"The last couple of years, he's had two or three starts all year where I've said, "'That's the guy that I remember,'" Chipper Jones said. "Everything else was just kind of mediocre. Through his first three starts this year, it's been that same type of [encouraging] feeling. [He] looks like the guy that we signed."
After being acquired from the A's before the 2005 season, Hudson began his career with the Braves by allowing one earned run or less in seven of his first 10 starts. He would do so again just 12 more times over the course of the next 54 starts he'd make through the conclusion of last year.
But while limiting opponents to 11 hits and two earned runs in 21 innings this year, Hudson already has made three starts in which he's allowed one earned run or less. Dating back to the end of last season, he's actually done so in five of his past six starts.
"This is obviously a good three-game stretch for anybody, particularly for me, the way things worked out for me last year," Hudson said. "Today was a day where it could have been bad. Luckily, I was able to keep those guys in check and make pitches when I needed to."
Hudson, who is 5-0 with a 1.90 ERA in eight career starts against the Marlins, didn't have much trouble handling Sunday's winter-like conditions. He allowed a pair of singles to begin his afternoon and then limited the damage by getting Miguel Cabrera to ground into a double play that scored Hanley Ramirez.
From there, Hudson was stingy. The Marlins had runners on first and second with one out in the third inning before the Braves right-hander used his relocated split-finger fastball to record consecutive strikeouts of Dan Uggla and Cabrera.
In the sixth, when the Marlins loaded the bases with one out, Hudson escaped unscathed. By the time he exited, he'd thrown 56 of his 97 pitches for strikes and issued four walks. While it might not have been dominant, it was encouraging in the fact the results indicated dominance on a day where he admittedly didn't have his best stuff.
"Today was a tough day to get a feel for anything," Hudson said. "I fell behind in the count a lot. Luckily I was able to make some pitches whenever I needed to. We just managed to bob and weave until we won. It was just one of those days out there."
Fortunately for the Braves, these kinds of days are becoming more commonplace for Hudson.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.