For the most part, those outings had gone well. He was 14-3 with a 2.05 ERA.
That all changed this season. Hudson has made two starts against the Nationals in the last five weeks, and they have twice wasted no time putting runs on the board.
Hudson gave up four runs in the first inning Sunday, and the Nationals went on to beat the Braves, 8-4, in front of 18,796 fans at Turner Field.
The Nationals also scored four runs off Hudson in the first inning of their 7-4 victory on May 25.
“For the second time in a row, they ambushed Huddy early,” third baseman Chipper Jones said. “They did it to him last time they were in town, and today was just like his first inning last time. We’ve got to get that ironed out, because that team’s in first place for a reason.”
Hudson gave up hits to the first three batters of the game, punctuated by a two-run double from Ryan Zimmerman.
A sacrifice fly and a two-out walk, followed by an error by center fielder Michael Bourn, led to the Nationals’ last two runs of the inning.
Hudson said his struggles in the first weren’t related to anything specific, he simply struggled to make his pitches.
“Just not very good stuff, from a location standpoint or a pitch standpoint,” Hudson said. “It just wasn’t very good.”
After the first, Hudson settled down for three scoreless innings. The Nationals tacked on a run in each the fifth and sixth innings, including Zimmerman’s sixth home run of the season, a prodigious solo blast to left field.
Hudson said he wasn’t pleased with the way he threw, even when he was getting quicker outs in his three scoreless innings.
“I wasn’t great all day,” he said. “It’s one of those things where I made some pitches when I had some quicker innings to keep my pitch count down. But they got some pitches to hit, and they took advantage of it.”
In all, Hudson allowed six runs (five earned) on eight hits in six innings.
Despite a 24-pitch first inning, Hudson threw only 87 pitches before getting removed for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth.
Though the Braves got in an early hole, they mounted a comeback in the sixth inning. Jones drew a walk off Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez to lead off the sixth. Dan Uggla followed with another walk, bringing Freddie Freeman to the plate.
Freeman hit a 2-2 fastball into the seats in right-center field for his 10th home run of the season.
Freeman said with runners on first and second and no outs, he was just trying to hit the ball hard.
“He made a mistake,” Freeman said. “He was trying to come in and left it out over the plate. I was able to stay short and get it out over the fence.”
Gonzalez’s day was done after that.
With the thermometer reading 101 degrees at first pitch, Gonzalez allowed four runs on five hits in five-plus innings.
“We swung the bats extremely well,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We just got behind the eight ball right out of the chute.”
The Braves were unable to get anything going against the Nationals’ bullpen. Craig Stammen, Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard combined for four scoreless innings.
The victory gave the Nationals their second series win at Turner Field this year. They also swept a weekend series from May 25-27. Overall, the Nationals are 6-2 against the Braves this season.
Jones said the Nationals have seemingly had the Braves’ number for the last several years.
“I can put my finger on it a lot better this year and maybe last year than I could the previous four or five years, because they obviously have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball,” Jones said.
“But it just seems like they’ve always hit our pitching, and it seems like their pitchers have always made the pitch to get out of trouble whenever we’ve threatened.
“It’s just one of those trends that we have to turn around.”