Braves-Rays Preview

The Associated Press

David Price ranks among the best pitchers in baseball.

Tim Hudson is trying to return to that level after back surgery.

Price and Hudson will start opposite each other Sunday as the Tampa Bay Rays and Atlanta Braves conclude this three-game interleague series at Tropicana Field.

Price (6-2, 3.10 ERA) is tied with six others, including teammate James Shields, for the major league lead in wins. He's won all three home starts behind a 1.16 ERA - among the lowest in the AL.

The left-hander won again Tuesday, but this time as a visitor. He allowed three runs and six hits with six strikeouts in seven innings of a 4-3 victory at Toronto. It was the seventh time in eight starts that he yielded three runs or fewer.

"My two-seam, might not have been running as much (but) my off-speed, my change-up was good," Price told the team's official website. "I was able to get that backdoor cutter across the plate for strike one. I felt like that was the biggest thing."

Price was credited with a 10-4 win at Atlanta (25-16) in his only start against the Braves on June 15, 2010, giving up two earned runs in five innings.

This time, he'll start opposite Hudson (2-1, 3.96), who has allowed two runs or fewer in three of four starts after starting the season on the disabled list while recovering from surgery to repair a herniated disc.

The veteran right-hander turned in another impressive performance Tuesday, allowing two runs and scattering nine hits in seven inning of a 6-2 win over Cincinnati.

"I'm feeling better each time out," Hudson said. "Every week that passes by I feel like I'm getting a little healthier. I'm really not concerned with it. I feel like I'm as healthy now as I have been in a really long time."

He may feel even better by taking the mound versus the Rays (25-16) since he's 7-1 with a 2.71 ERA in 11 starts against them. That defeat came in his last appearance at Tropicana Field on May 2, 2004.

Hudson will want to be careful with Matt Joyce, who is 6 for 13 with six RBIs in his last five home games after connecting for his third career grand slam in Saturday's 5-2 win.

Joyce owns a .348 average over the past seven games overall.

Michael Bourn has been pacing Atlanta at the top of the lineup, hitting .357 with seven runs in the past nine games, including 9 for 26 with one homer and three RBIs in five road contests.

Martin Prado had his 10-game hitting streak halted with Saturday's 0-for-3 effort. He batted .476 with nine extra-base hits and five RBIs during the run, including a double, solo homer and three runs in the series opener.

The Braves are expected to be without Chipper Jones for at least one more game because of a bruised left calf. He sustained the injury Friday when he was hit by a ball off the bat of B.J. Upton.

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