The Atlanta Braves got a win with their ace on the mound Friday, and now they’re hoping their hottest pitcher can come through.
John Smoltz threw eight impressive innings in Friday’s 7-2 series-opening win, helping the Braves (67-62) end a three-game losing streak. Aside from Smoltz and Hudson, Atlanta’s rotation has not recorded a win since Aug. 7, when Buddy Carlyle beat the New York Mets.
“He was dynamite,” manager Bobby Cox said of Smoltz, who allowed two runs in eight innings for the second straight start. “He was dominating, just threw a ton of strikes and pitched a super ballgame.”
Atlanta hasn’t recorded a win in a game not started by its top two pitchers since Aug. 11, when Lance Cormier started and reliever Ron Mahay picked up the win in Philadelphia. The Braves are six games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets and three behind San Diego for the wild card.
Hudson (15-5, 3.07 ERA) has been Atlanta’s most consistent starter lately. He has won five consecutive starts and a career high-tying nine straight decisions, earning a 2.57 ERA in 11 starts since his last loss on June 19 against Boston.
“I’m just going out there and giving us a good chance to win,” Hudson told the Braves’ official Web site. “Hopefully we win every one of my starts. I don’t care if I get the win or not. But if the team wins and we’re ready to make the playoffs at the end of the season, that’s all that matters.”
Hudson gave up three runs in six innings of Monday’s 14-4 win in Cincinnati, becoming the first NL pitcher to reach 15 wins. On Saturday, he can match Boston’s Josh Beckett for the major league lead in victories.
Hudson is 3-1 with a 4.09 ERA in five career starts against the Cardinals. He has won each of his last three, including a 10-1 home win on July 19 in his only 2007 start against St. Louis.
Atlanta first baseman Mark Teixeira, acquired on July 31 in a trade with Texas, drove in his 14th run in six games Friday. He leads the majors with 10 homers and 29 RBIs in August.
The win came hours after Atlanta designated struggling closer Bob Wickman for assignment. Cox would not reveal his new closer, though he said Rafael Soriano would likely have gotten the call if needed on Friday.
The Cardinals (61-64), who have dropped their last two games, committed four errors for the second straight night - the first time that’s happened to the franchise since 1962. Scott Rolen has committed three of the eight errors for St. Louis, which trails the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs by four games.
“It’s something you don’t like to happen, but it’s happened and it’s over with,” said shortstop David Eckstein, whose errant throw led to two unearned runs in the fourth. “You’ve got to be ready to go tomorrow.”
Albert Pujols was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and is 0-for-7 in the last two games after homering in five straight games to tie the franchise record.
“He’s a great hitter, a great defensive first baseman as well,” Cox said. “Smoltzy pitched him tough.”
The Cardinals will hand the ball to Joel Pineiro (3-1, 3.38), who is trying to win his fourth straight start. The right-hander, who spent the season in the bullpen until he was acquired from Boston on July 30, gave up three runs in five innings of Monday’s 6-4 win over the Chicago Cubs.
Pineiro had never faced Atlanta before this season, but made two relief appearances against them for the Red Sox, allowing four runs in three innings without getting a decision.
Teixeira is 8-for-30 (.267) with two homers against him.