With the top of their starting rotation leading the way, the Atlanta Braves are off to a sensational start.
John Smoltz threw seven shutout innings in Friday’s series opening 4-0 victory, as the Braves (18-10) won for the fifth time in seven games. Atlanta, which is tied for first in the NL East with the New York Mets, improved to 11-2 in games started by Smoltz and Hudson this season.
Hudson (3-0, 1.40 ERA) is coming off an emotionally draining start Monday, when he put together another strong outing one day after both his grandmother and college teammate Josh Hancock died.
Despite the tragedies, Hudson allowed two runs and four hits in eight innings of 5-2 win over Philadelphia but didn’t factor in the decision. Still, it was another outstanding start for the right-hander, who has lasted at least seven innings in each of his first six appearances and hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of them.
“It’s nice to go out there and give us a good chance to win,” said Hudson, who is limiting opponents to a .186 batting average. “It’s still early in the year. We’ve got five months to go. I’ve got to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Hudson has never opened a season 4-0 in his career, but has never lost to the Dodgers (17-12) either. The two-time All-Star is 5-0 with a 3.25 ERA in seven career starts against Los Angeles, and has won both of his starts at Turner Field against the Dodgers, allowing four runs in 15 innings.
Catcher Brian McCann returned to the lineup for Atlanta on Friday after missing one game with a sore hand, and went 2-for-2 with a two-run double in the first inning. McCann is batting .476 (10-for-21) with two homers and six RBIs in seven games against Los Angeles.
The NL West-leading Dodgers left 11 runners on base on Friday as they were blanked for the first time all season. Los Angeles has stranded 43 runners in its last four games, scoring just five runs in those contests.
“It should be a real concern of mine, and we have to make some changes in the batting order or personnel or something,” Dodgers manager Grady Little told the team’s official Web site. “It’s getting old watching this. Right now, we’re not getting the big hits when we need them.”
Derek Lowe (2-3, 4.62) looks to bounce back from a couple of poor outings for Los Angeles.
Since allowing two runs over 15 innings in consecutive starts in mid-April, Lowe has given up 13 runs in 18 innings in his last three. He gave up four runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-4, 17-inning win over San Diego on Sunday.
The right-hander has also been having problems against Atlanta lately. Last season, he was knocked around for eight runs in five innings of an 11-10 loss to the Braves on April 3, and is 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA in his last four starts against them.