Hudson, Braves' bats help earn split
Starter allows two hits as offense tallies 14 hits in Game 2
PITTSBURGH -- It might have been a little bit too optimistic for the Braves to think they could actually win half as many road games in one day as they previously had all season. But now that they've at least finally once again won a game outside of Atlanta, their only concern is to put their road woes behind them.
While the Braves weren't able to sweep Monday afternoon's doubleheader against the Pirates at PNC Park, they were at least able to bounce back in the second game to claim a convincing 8-1 victory that was keyed by Tim Hudson's solid pitching performance and Brian McCann's three-run homer.
"I love doubleheaders," said Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur, who went 5-for-10 during the twin bill. "You get, like, 10 at-bats, which allows you to do damage, and we did some damage today."
Actually, most of the damage came during the second game, when the Braves pounded out 14 hits and took advantage of the opportunities that they squandered in the opener. Mark Kotsay enjoyed a three-hit game, highlighted by a two-run fourth-inning double that gave Hudson a lead that he would preserve.
While the Braves' offense didn't give Jair Jurrjens any support while suffering a 3-0 loss in the opener, it was plenty generous to Hudson, who allowed just one unearned run and two hits over seven innings. The veteran right-hander has won each of his past three starts, allowed just two earned runs in his past 23 innings and lowered his ERA to 2.54.
"You can't pitch any better than either of them did," manager Bobby Cox said, including Jurrjens, who surrendered all of his three runs courtesy of a two-out, three-run double by Freddy Sanchez.
Hudson's effort prevented the Braves from being swept in this four-game series against the Pirates, who won five of the seven games in the now-complete seven-game season series between these teams.
The lone run Hudson surrendered was unearned because of an error charged to Greg Norton, who was playing first base in place of Mark Teixeira, who was forced to exit the first game in the fourth inning with back spasms. Teixeira is questionable for Tuesday night's series opener in Philadelphia.
Cox had plenty of reason to breathe a sigh of relief after seeing his team snap a seven-game road losing streak with the nightcap victory. This was just the Braves' fifth win in 19 road games and the first since Jurrjens beat the Mets on April 25.
"I think we've been playing great," Cox said. "We've just hit so many balls hard right at people with men on base. It's become a joke around the clubhouse."
After stranding 15 runners in the first game, the Braves weren't laughing, and they released their frustrations against John Van Benschoten, who was making his first Major League start of the season. Hudson received his first lead of the day with Kotsay's fourth-inning, two-run double and then gained plenty of breathing room during a four-run fifth inning that was highlighted by McCann's three-run shot.
"He's the one that got us going with that gapper," Cox said of Kotsay, who is hitting .371 (13-for-35) in the nine games he's played this month.
During the first game, the Braves simply weren't able to get the timely hit. They went hitless in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position and didn't have a baserunner advance as far as third base until the ninth inning.
The lack of support led to Jurrjens losing for the first time in four decisions. He induced double-play grounders in both of the first two innings and was cruising before issuing a fifth-inning leadoff walk to Jason Michaels. Things got worse when Matt Diaz misjudged Adam LaRoche's wind-aided bloop single to shallow left field.
Then, after recording a bases-loaded strikeout of Zach Duke, Jurrjens surrendered a two-out, three-run double to Sanchez, who enjoyed a three-RBI performance in the Pirates' 3-2 win over the Braves on Friday. The former National League batting champion reached across the plate and directed Jurrjens' 0-1 fastball the opposite way, off the right-field wall.
Sanchez's hit, combined with the many squandered scoring opportunities in the first game, caused Jurrjens to admit the road woes were beginning to bother the Braves' sanity.
"It's crazy," Jurrjens said. "There's no way to explain how we feel about that."
After Hudson took care of the losing streak in the nightcap, it was a little easier for the Braves to laugh about their road struggles.
"It's hard to explain," Hudson said. "We've been playing pretty good ball and just haven't been able to catch many breaks on the road."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.