An enlivened offense is one big reason the Atlanta Braves have one of the majors’ best records in May.
The resurgent right-hander looks to cap his brilliant month by winning a fifth straight decision Thursday night as the Braves finish their road trip and decide their three-game set with the Florida Marlins.
Atlanta (24-22) ranked 25th in the majors in runs (85) and 29th in batting average (.227) during April, but the club’s 128 runs in May are more than any other NL team.
The Braves bounced back from consecutive losses by beating Florida 7-3 on Wednesday, scoring six runs in the seventh inning to improve to 15-8 this month - second only to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“This might be the game that sparks everything and helps me move forward,” Escobar said. “I know the team counts on my offensive production.”
Having Hudson (5-1, 2.09 ERA) on the mound has made things even tougher for opponents. The 34-year-old made only seven starts last season after recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he’s quickly returned to form in 2010.
Hudson has allowed a total of two runs and 12 hits in 22 innings while winning his last three starts, and he’s 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA in five May outings. He limited Pittsburgh to three hits in eight innings of a 7-0 win Friday night.
“My sinker feels really good, and for me that’s the key,” Hudson said. “Stay down in the zone with it, (get) good action, stay on top of it, (with) good downward tilt. It’s a fun day when I’m able to go out and do that.”
Hudson is 8-2 with a 2.92 ERA in 15 career starts against Florida, including a 6-1 record in Miami.
Nolasco (4-3, 4.50) may still be especially careful with the middle of Atlanta’s lineup. Chipper Jones(notes) and Brian McCann(notes) each have four homers off him, with Jones going 11 for 26 and McCann 10 for 31.
Nolasco will be trying to bounce back from his worst outing of the year. The right-hander allowed eight runs and 10 hits - including two homers - in 5 1-3 innings of Friday’s 8-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
“I left some pitches up and they didn’t miss them,” Nolasco said.
The Marlins (24-23) also didn’t offer him any support in that start, and their offense has been inconsistent lately. In their last six games, they’ve averaged 1.5 runs in four losses and 9.5 runs in two victories.
Florida has also had problems with its bullpen in this series. Closer Leo Nunez(notes) struggled to finish Tuesday’s game, allowing two runs and three hits in the ninth inning of the 6-4 win, and three different relievers combined to allow all six runs in Wednesday’s seventh inning.
“We just couldn’t get through that seventh inning,” Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said.