WASHINGTON — When Braves rookie Jason Heyward swiped home on the front end of a double steal with Brian McCann in the first inning of a 3-1 victory over the Nationals on Wednesday night, the event was so rare, so made-up-on-the-spot, no one involved quite knew what to make of it.
"You're not going to see a lot of it," Heyward said.
How right he was: Atlanta hadn't stolen home in a decade.
McCann, who got to second base after escaping a rundown, didn't even realize he was marked down for a stolen base.
"We got lucky," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox acknowledged. "That wasn't scripted. Can't take credit for that one."
That was part of a two-run first for Atlanta, and Tim Hudson shut down Washington the way he almost always does, helping the
NL East-leading Braves beat the last-place Nationals. Hudson (11-5) allowed one run in 7 2-3 innings, improving to 10-1 with a 1.49 ERA for his career against the Nationals franchise.
"Everything he had was working," said Willie Harris, 0 for 3 with three strikeouts against Hudson. "He had everything tonight — sinker, changeup, cutter."
Livan Hernandez (7-7) gave up three runs in 4 1-3 innings, his shortest outing of 2010.
Asked about removing Hernandez so early, Nationals manager Jim Riggleman replied: "I just felt like the way Hudson was throwing, we couldn't afford to give up any more runs."
Hard to argue with that reasoning.
Chipper Jones drove in two runs, and Martin Prado had three hits for Atlanta, which had lost four of its previous six games. The Braves were shut out by the Nationals on Tuesday, when reliever Miguel Batista went five innings as a last-minute replacement for Stephen Strasburg, whose pitching shoulder felt stiff.
Already leading Wednesday on Jones' sacrifice fly, the Braves went ahead 2-0 on Heyward's rare dash home. The last Braves player to steal home was Rafael Furcal on April 9, 2000, against San Francisco.
With one out and runners at the corners Wednesday, Hernandez struck out Eric Hinske. McCann broke for second base, and Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez's throw easily beat him to the bag. So McCann changed direction and headed back to first, winding up in a rundown.
That's when Heyward made his play, drawing a throw to the plate from first baseman Adam Dunn. Heyward was safe, while McCann took second.
"We didn't really execute it just the way we should have," Riggleman said. "They did a great job. Heyward left at the optimum time there to make it a tough play for Adam to get a throw off."
Said Dunn: "We might have been able to do it better, but I thought we did it good. It's just, he beat it. ... He's fast."
Hudson gave up seven hits, tied a season high with seven strikeouts and walked one — his final batter, Ryan Zimmerman, with two outs in the eighth. Jonny Venters entered to face cleanup hitter Dunn and struck him out swinging to end the inning. Dunn chucked his bat.
Billy Wagner pitched a perfect ninth for his 23rd save in 28 chances.
Washington's run came in the fifth, when Rodriguez doubled and came home on Michael Morse's single. Later in that inning,
Adam Kennedy hit a shot off Hudson's shin. The pitcher gathered the ball and threw out Kennedy.
"He got me pretty good," Hudson said. "It's fine; just a flesh wound."
NOTES: Strasburg did not throw at all Wednesday and is expected to be shut down for at least two days. ... Nationals LHP Scott Olsen is slated to come off the 15-day disabled list and start against Atlanta on Thursday. Olsen went on the DL on May 22 with an injured left shoulder. RHP Craig Stammen will start Friday, and LHP Ross Detwiler on Saturday. ... Venters is still awaiting a ruling from Major League Baseball on his appeal of a four-game suspension for throwing at Milwaukee's Prince Fielder. A hearing was held in Washington on Tuesday.