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Braves end 4-game skid

POSTED: May 14, 2008 5:01 a.m.
The Associated Press/

Braves starter Tim Hudson pitched his 11th career shutout on Friday against the Reds.

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ATLANTA — Tim Hudson had just about everybody in the Atlanta clubhouse relieved. Maybe the Braves’ starting rotation hasn’t quite reached a crisis point yet.

Hudson pitched his 11th career shutout and Brian McCann hit a two-run homer, helping Atlanta end a season-high four-game losing streak with a 2-0 victory over Cincinnati on Friday night.

“The last two starts haven’t exactly been textbook for me,” Hudson said,” so it’s nice to come out here and give us a chance to win.”

Hudson (4-2) gave up just three hits, and at one point retired 11 straight batters before Edwin Encarnacion singled leading off the eighth. Encarnacion went to second on Yunel Escobar’s throwing error, the first Cincinnati batter to get past first, but was eventually stranded at third on pinch-hitter Joey Votto’s groundout.

Reds manager Dusty Baker hadn’t seen Hudson pitch that well since 2002, when Baker was managing San Francisco and Hudson was across the bay with Oakland.

“He was dealing tonight,” Baker said. “His ball was dipping and diving. I’d like to think it was him and not us.”

Hudson gave the Braves’ ailing staff a boost after John Smoltz said before the game that he’s likely to return as Atlanta’s closer instead of rejoining the rotation. He’s on the 15-day disabled list with an inflamed right shoulder and biceps tendinitis.

Tom Glavine made his first trip to the DL with a strained right hamstring before returning on Tuesday, and Mike Hampton said Friday that his strained pectoral muscle could keep him out indefinitely.

“We needed this win big-time, and we need to keep winning,” McCann said.

Hudson didn’t have a strikeout after the sixth, but finished with a season-high 10. He retired Corey Patterson, Jeff Keppinger and Ken Griffey Jr. on fly balls in the ninth.

The performance stood in stark contrast to Hudson’s last three, in which he’d managed just one win and had struggled with a dip in velocity. He gave up four runs and seven hits in three innings of a 4-3 loss to the Mets on Saturday in New York.

This time, though, Hudson was able to locate his change up and pick his spots.

“It was a good one,” Hudson said of the pitch. “It was one I’d been working on in spring. I had a real good feeling for it spring training, but I just hadn’t really had a chance to go with it the last few starts. It was there for me tonight.”

Hudson’s last shutout was last Sept. 16 at Washington. His complete game, the first for Atlanta’s staff this season, gave him 22 in his career and six in four years with the Braves.

McCann’s sixth homer of the season came in the fourth off rookie Edinson Volquez (4-1), sending the Reds to their third straight loss. Chipper Jones, who reached base in all four at-bats, scored on McCann’s homer and had two of Atlanta’s six hits.

McCann, the Atlanta catcher, was surprised when Hudson shook him off in the first inning, preferring to try his change up instead of the split-finger fastball.

The change up kept Cincinnati off balance all night.

“It was unbelievable,” McCann said. “It had another gear. He was really pulling the string off it. When he attacks a guy in the zone, he’s the best in the game. He did that tonight and showed you why he’s every bit as good as advertised.”

Volquez, making his first appearance against the Braves, allowed five hits and two runs — one earned — in six innings. The right-hander raised his National League-best ERA four points to 1.27 while striking out nine and walking two.

Jeremy Affeldt pitched the seventh and Bill Bray the eighth.

“All my pitches were working tonight,” Volquez said. “I just missed the change up (to McCann). It was the only bad pitch of the night. I had a fastball in my hands and changed it to the change up. It was the wrong pitch.”

Notes: The Reds had no baserunners before Volquez had his first career hit with two out in the third. ... Cincinnati went 3-0 at Turner Field last year, the Reds’ first season sweep in Atlanta since April 1990. ... Atlanta CF Mark Kotsay went 1-for-3. He’s hitting .438 over his last four games.



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