Tim Hudson has been a steadying veteran presence in the Braves’ rotation for years, but in recent weeks he’s been anything but.
He had another bad night Monday, allowing six runs in six innings of a 9-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, Hudson’s third consecutive loss in four starts and the second in a row for the Braves since their eight-game winning streak.
“I feel like there’s some work I need to do, obviously,” said Hudson, who gave up eight hits and two homers, including a two-run shot by Colby Rasmus, who’s from Hudson’s hometown of Phenix City, Ala., and is the older brother of Braves reliever Cory, whom he doubled off in the seventh inning in their first matchup.
Evan Gattis had three hits for the Braves including his 11th homer, a two-run shot in the eighth inning after the Blue Jays built an eight-run lead. But on this night, the bigger storylines were Hudson’s struggles and the matchup between Cory and Colby, the Toronto center fielder who’s older by 15 months.
It was the first time the faced each other in anything other than a high-school scrimmage, and the first major league matchup of brothers since Jared and Jeff Weaver in 2010. Colby doubled, the third extra-base hit off his brother including a three-run homer by Edwin Encarnacion.
“It was still awesome,” said Cory, who worked two innings in just his second big-league appearance since being called from Triple-A Gwinnett a little over a week ago. “The fact that we lost – the outcome is the most important part. But me facing him was a lot of fun. It just sucks that he got a hit.”
Colby Rasmus said, “It was a strange feeling. Lot of emotions going on. But it was awesome and terrible at the same time. I’m definitely proud of him.”
The elder Rasmus got his biggest hit of the night against Hudson (4-4), who was ahead in the count 0-2 and gave up the homer on a 1-2 hanging curveball.
“It was not a very good night. I was bailing a little bit with my delivery,” said Hudson, 0-3 with an 8.69 ERA in his past four starts. “Pitches weren’t very crisp. I hung a breaking ball to Rasmus he made me pay for.”
Hudson has allowed 29 hits and 19 runs in 19 2/3 innings over his past four starts. He also gave up a two-run homer to J.P. Arencibia in the sixth, capping an outing that continued a stunning disparity in Hudson’s home and road results.
The 37-year-old right-hander is 1-4 with a 7.67 ERA in six road starts, and 3-0 and a 2.97 ERA in five at Turner Field.
“We have a great place to pitch, a great mound,” Hudson said. “I’m sure there’s a comfort level there. But at the same time, you’ve got to be able to do it at home and on the road.”
He said his struggles had nothing to do with the road and everything to do with a familiar mechanical flaw — not staying up straight on his back leg. The same issue caused a few rough stretches of pitching in the past.
“When things flatten out a little bit that’s usually where the source of the problem comes from,” he said. “I’ve gotten into some bad habits in that area, and I just have to go clean it up a little bit working on the side with (pitching coach) Roger (McDowell)
“It’s nothing I haven’t dealt with in the past. Nothing I’m really concerned with. I know there’s some adjustments that I need to make. Obviously the results stink for me right now, for our club. But I feel confident that things are going to be a lot better, hopefully really soon.”
The Braves slipped to 2-2 on their five-game trip and struggled for the second night in a row against a pitcher with an ugly record and ERA. In Sunday’s 4-2 loss against the Mets, they got two runs and four hits in seven innings against winless (0-5) Shaun Marcum, who entered with a 6.59 ERA and struck out 12 Braves with no walks.
On Monday it was veteran Mark Buehrle, who came in with a 1-3 record and 5.90 ERA and proceeded to turn back the clock against the Braves. The Braves managed five hits and one run in six innings against the left-hander, who didn’t allow a hit until Gattis’ two-out double in the fourth.
“I’m scared of those guys,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Especially if they’re left-handed and have a changeup or something. That’s the guys that get us, that keep us off-balance. I felt pretty good today about our matchups with Buehrle; we saw him a lot last year in Miami and had some success against him. But he did a nice job today, commanding both sides of the plate and making pitches.”
As a Marlin last season, Buehrle was 1-2 with a 5.91 ERA in four starts against the Braves.
Colby Rasmus staked him to a 2-0 lead with his second-inning homer off Hudson, two batters after Adam Lind’s leadoff double. It was the sixth hit and second homer for Rasmus in his 12th at-bat against Hudson.
The Blue Jays pushed the lead to 4-0 an inning later on Encarnacion’s two-run single. Hudson walked ex-Brave Melky Cabrera with one out and gave up a long double to Jose Bautista.
The Braves got a run in the fifth when Chris Johnson doubled and scored on Andrelton Simmons’ two-out single. They had a chance to pull closer in the sixth after consecutive one-out singles by Freddie Freeman and Gattis. But Brian McCann grounded out and Dan Uggla struck out looking to end the inning.
After the Braves failed to capitalize in that inning, the Blue Jays took a commanding lead with Arencibia’s homer off Hudson in the bottom of the inning, and the three-run inning against Rasmus in the seventh.
Gonzalez was asked if he were concerned about Hudson.
“Obviously you always have concern when you’re pitchers are not performing,” he said. “But health is good, that’s No. 1. I don’t have any concern over that, the health. He’s just going through a couple of little rough patches. Huddy is a veteran guy, and we’ll get him back on track.”