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Hudson struggles in another Braves loss
Atlanta Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur (7) is unable to catch Florida Marlins' Luis Gonzalez's fly ball that went into the stands for a seventh-inning home run. - photo by The Associated Press

MIAMI — Tim Hudson threw as hard as he could, and for the Atlanta Braves, the result was doubly troublesome.

Hudson’s fastball hit only 85 mph. And Mike Jacobs hit it over the wall.

With Hudson unable to generate his normal velocity, the Florida Marlins took advantage and beat the struggling Atlanta Braves 6-5 Wednesday night.

Hudson departed after only three innings trailing 4-1.

“I felt all right physically,” he said. “I just couldn’t get anything behind the ball. It was a weird feeling. My heater’s usually a lot better than that.”

Hudson (2-1) endured his first poor start of the season, allowing six hits. Manager Bobby Cox pulled the right-hander after only 58 pitches.

“It was just one of those nights when his arm was kind of dead,” Cox said. “I thought it might be a good time to give him a break.”

The Braves lost their third in a row and fell to 0-7 in one-run games. They’re 2-7 on the road.

“How does the saying go? “You can’t win the division in April, but you can lose it,”’ left fielder Matt Diaz said. “We have to make sure we don’t do that.”

Mark Hendrickson (3-1) won his third start in a row for surprising Florida. Jacobs hit his sixth home run, and Luis Gonzalez added a two-run pinch-hit homer, his first since 1992.

The Marlins are last in the NL in ERA but 9-0 when scoring at least four runs. They lead the NL East despite the lowest payroll in the majors.

“It’s a good win for us,” Gonzalez said. “It keeps us rolling. We beat a pretty good pitcher tonight.”
Hudson usually throws in the low 90s, but his fastball stayed in the 84- to 86-mph range. Cox and his staff, already dealing with a wave of injuries, kept asking Hudson if something was wrong.

“I didn’t know what to tell them,” Hudson said. “Nothing was hurting. ... Next time I’ll throw harder.”
Hudson said his problem may have been a recent bout with the flu. He lost for the first time in seven career starts in Miami, where he had been 4-0. His ERA rose from 2.14 to 3.38.

Jacobs, who came into the game tied for the NL lead in home runs, hit a two-out homer off Hudson in the third inning. It was only the second homer allowed by a Braves starter this year.

Florida was nursing a 4-3 lead when newcomer Gonzalez homered in the seventh. It was only the second pinch-hit homer for the 40-year-old outfielder, who is a reserve this year for the first time in his career.

“He has been a tremendous asset in this clubhouse, the way he carries himself,” Hendrickson said. “For the young guys to see what his bat did there in a pinch-hit role is another way for him to be a teacher.”

Hendrickson went 5 1-3 innings and gave up three runs, two earned. Kevin Gregg pitched a perfect ninth for his third save in as many chances.

Yunel Escobar hit his third home run for the Braves, who grounded into three inning-ending double plays.

“We’ve hit so many balls hard,” Cox said. “But they’re right at someone.”

Florida scored three times in the second. Josh Willingham led off with a double and came home on a single by Jorge Cantu. Mike Rabelo doubled and Alfredo Amezaga walked to load the bases, and Hanley Ramirez hit a two-out, two-run single.

Atlanta scored an unearned run in the second. Jeff Francoeur doubled, took third on an infield single by Diaz and continued home on an errant throw by third baseman Cantu.

Kelly Johnson walked with two out in the fifth, and Escobar homered to cut the Braves’ deficit to 4-3. Atlanta scored in the eighth on Brian McCann’s RBI groundout and Diaz’s infield single, but Mark Kotsay grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Twice the Marlins turned double plays to escape two-on, one-out jams.

Notes: Wednesday was the Marlins’ ninth consecutive day in sole possession of first place, their longest such stretch since June 2004. ... Ramirez took early batting practice one day after his 11-game hitting streak ended. ... NL batting leader Chipper Jones singled in the third to extend his hitting streak to 12 games for Atlanta.

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