Four losses and five days later, some Braves fans began to worry about the possibility of traveling down the same devastating path again this year. But some of that panic has since been put to rest thanks to Tim Hudson and a suddenly rejuvenated offense.
Hudson appeared to be a man on a mission as he completed seven solid innings and benefited from the two-run first inning the Braves produced on the way to claiming a 7-1 win over Tim Lincecum and the Giants on Sunday night.
The Braves drew a pair of walks against a shaky Lincecum in the two-run first inning and saw Juan Francisco display his impressive power with a long third-inning home run. But the tone of the evening was set by Hudson, who allowed one run and five hits over seven innings.
Once a Bay Area favorite during his days with the A’s, Hudson has now helped the Braves win eight of his past 10 starts against the Giants. One of the losses came at the beginning of the 2010 season, when Billy Wagner surrendered a game-tying ninth-inning home run. The other occurred the same year in the Division Series game that Atlanta fans and Brooks Conrad have tried hard to forget.
With wins in the final two games of this four-game series, the Braves strengthened some of the confidence that had been tested when they lost Friday night for the sixth time in a span of seven games. At the same time, they moved to within 4 1/2 games of the first-place Nationals, who were swept by the Phillies this past weekend.
Using some of the momentum generated when they scored seven runs in Saturday’s win over the Giants, the Braves took a patient approach to frustrate Lincecum, who ended up throwing at least 30 first-inning pitches for the third time in his past five starts.
Lincecum might have escaped his 32-pitch first inning unscathed with some good fortune. But Martin Prado’s bases-loaded chopper proved to be too soft for the Giants to turn a double play. Brian McCann then followed with a bloop single that sparked his three-hit night and gave Hudson a 2-0 lead before he threw his first pitch.
Francisco added to that advantage with a fourth-inning solo home run that sailed over the right-center-field wall. It was the ninth home run of the season for the backup third baseman.
Since the end of Spring Training, the Braves have acquired both Francisco and Paul Janish in pivotal trades with the Reds. Along with supplying superb defense at the shortstop position, Janish has provided some contributions at the plate.
Janish’s latest offensive contribution came courtesy of the two-run triple he hit in the sixth inning after right-handed reliever George Kontos entered the game to face him.
Hudson surrendered three hits through the first six innings and then minimized damage after giving up two singles to begin the seventh inning. Gregor Blanco drew a walk to load the bases with one out. But the only run surrendered during the inning came courtesy of Brandon Crawford’s sacrifice fly.
Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman iced the game with back-to-back homers in the ninth.