Atlanta starter Tim Hudson says he’s just beginning to find his groove. He’ll most likely need his best stuff on Monday.
Hudson squares off against Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano as the Braves open a three-game series with Chicago at Wrigley Field.
Hudson allowed two runs and seven hits in eight innings of Wednesday’s 10-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 30-year-old right-hander is 2-2 with a 3.49 ERA in his last four starts.
“I feel like I’m just now getting in a groove, feeling pretty strong,” Hudson said. “I’ve got just over 100 innings under me right now and I feel like I’m just about getting things going.”
Hudson, who was acquired from the Oakland Athletics before the season, has thrown 133 innings this season. He has lasted at least seven innings in four of his last five starts.
“I feel like things are heading in the right direction,” he said. “I feel like maybe I can get in a groove and have good starts the rest of the way out.”
Zambrano has given up just three earned runs in 25 1-3 innings in his last four starts, going 3-1 over that span. He allowed just two runs and three hits in 8 1-3 innings of Wednesday’s 4-2 victory over the Houston Astros despite battling flu-like symptoms.
“I was a little sick, but I took a couple (of) Tylenol,” said Zambrano, who also hit his first homer of the season and fourth of his career. “I was feeling good mentally. All my pitches were in command today. When you go out there to prepare yourself to throw a game mentally, it doesn’t matter what you have (physically).”
Zambrano, who had left his previous two starts with back problems, struck out 10 batters, reaching double digits for the third time this season. He is 6-1 in his last 10 outings.
“When a guy is throwing 97 mph and has a changeup about 84, you’re not going to have a lot of good at-bats,” Astros manager Phil Garner said.
The Cubs lost 9-7 to the Colorado Rockies on Sunday, ending their road trip 3-3. Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Neifi Perez and Jeromy Burnitz each homered for Chicago, which is opening a nine-game homestand.
The Cubs trail the Philadelphia Phillies by 6 1/2 games in the National League wild-card race.
The Braves beat the San Diego Padres 6-2 on Sunday, avoiding a three-game sweep. Ryan Langerhans had two hits, a run and an RBI for Atlanta, which finished its longest homestand of the season with a 5-7 record.
The Braves, who snapped a three-game losing streak, lead the NL East by 3 1/2 games over second-place Philadelphia.
Atlanta will activate catcher Johnny Estrada from the 15-day disabled list on Monday. Estrada was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 11, retroactive to Aug. 6, with a lumbar and cervical strain as he continues to suffer the effects of a June 6 home-plate collision with the Angels’ Darin Erstad. He said that he is still sore.
The Braves swept a four-game series against the Cubs in Atlanta in July in the only meeting between the teams this season.