Braves-Cubs Preview

The Associated Press

Tim Hudson couldn't have asked for a much better return from back surgery last month. His second start of the season, however, left a little to be desired.

The Braves right-hander will try to bounce back from that outing Wednesday against the Chicago Cubs, who are hoping to get another superb effort from starter Paul Maholm.

Hudson allowed two runs over five innings in his season debut April 29, a 4-3 victory over Pittsburgh that came after recovery from an offseason procedure to fix a herniated disk.

The right-hander, though, had trouble building on that effort, especially in the thin air of Colorado, as he was tagged for seven runs over six innings during his next outing Friday.

The right-hander gave up five of those runs to the Rockies in the first inning but retired 11 in a row at one point before yielding single runs in each of his final two frames. He escaped without a loss when the Braves (19-12) rallied for an extra-inning win.

This time, Hudson (1-0, 6.55 ERA) might have to outduel a rejuvenated Maholm (3-2, 5.13) to avoid his first defeat of the campaign.

The left-hander has yielded one run in each of his three consecutive victories after going 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA in his first two starts for the Cubs. He gave up a season-low three hits and walked none during a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday.

"Being aggressive, mixing pitches, mixing location,'' he said when asked about the keys to his win streak. "I would say more of a confidence and a comfort factor, getting used to everything and just kind of pitching my game."

If his past matchups with Atlanta are an indication, Maholm might be in line for another strong outing. In six starts against the Braves, he's 1-1 with a 1.58 ERA, his lowest against any opponent in his career.

He'll face a team that's scored four runs over its two games at Wrigley Field this week after totaling 44 in its previous five contests. Atlanta, though, managed to even the series with Chicago (12-18) with a 3-1 victory Tuesday night.

Dan Uggla drove in the go-ahead runs in the eighth inning off struggling veteran Kerry Wood, who threw his glove and hat into the stands after getting the final out of the frame.

"I was just trying to get something in the air towards the middle of the field and it ended up finding a hole," Uggla said. "That's what we needed."

Hudson will try to give the Braves more of what they need by improving on his 2-0 record and 3.94 ERA in five career starts against the Cubs. He's also 1-0 with a 2.91 ERA in three outings at Wrigley Field.

Wednesday's game is expected to be Chipper Jones' last at Wrigley but it's doubtful to be much sadness coming from the seven-time All-Star and 1999 NL MVP. Jones is a career .220 hitter in that park during the regular season and has batted a combined .306 everywhere else.

He might not have much luck in boosting that average at Wrigley on Wednesday as he's 0 for 6 in his career against Maholm.

Michael Bourn, who is riding a 12-game hit streak, is 7 for 29 with 10 strikeouts versus the left-hander. Maholm has fanned only two other batters more often, former NL players Prince Fielder (15) and Adam Dunn (12).

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