They haven’t played well on the road, but here’s the thing about these boom-or-bust Braves: If they hit a couple or more homers, they usually win. They got that out of the way early Saturday night, then rolled over the Phillies.
The Braves hit two homers in the first two innings for a 3-0 lead, and from there the Braves and Tim Hudson cruised to a 13-4 win at Citizens Bank Park, snapping a three-game losing streak and squaring the three-game series at one apiece.
Brian McCann had four of the Braves’ season-high 19 hits, and the Braves got home runs from Andrelton Simmons, Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward on the way to a season-high scoring total.
Simmons started the first inning with a homer, and the Braves never looked back as Hudson (5-7) snapped a career-worst 10-start winless drought, working seven efficient innings and allowing five hits, one run and no walks to go with four strikeouts on a muggy night when the first-pitch temperature was 94.
“He pitched great,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Gave us seven innings of good baseball on a tough night to pitch, with the humidity up where it was. And we swung the bats, gave him a nice lead. It was a good night. Lot of guys swung the bats really well.”
The Braves got hits from 11 players including Hudson, who chipped in with a two-out RBI single and a walk
“It’s always nice when you get some runs early and are able to be a lot more aggressive in the zone,” Hudson said. “Guys came out swinging and had some really good at-bats. I was able to wiggle out of a couple of jams and limit them to one run. It’s usually not that easy against these guys.”
Simmons had three hits, including a triple. Uggla homered for the second night in a row, and Heyward added a three-run homer in the seventh inning off a left-hander, Joe Savery.
The Braves are 9-16 in their past 25 road games, but 7-1 in games in which they’ve hit two or more homers. They are 2-15 during that road stretch when hitting one or no homers.
They’ve hit three or more homers in 17 games this season — home or road — and won 16 of them.
But what encouraged some Braves on Saturday was not the homers so much as the 19 total hits, a sacrifice fly, moving runners over or driving them in with groundouts. It was their eighth double-digit hits total in the past 11 games and the third time in seven that they’ve scored 11 or more.
“The good thing I’ve seen, last year there was a spot of about two months without a sac fly, or something like that,” Gonzalez said. “It was a crazy number. And this year, it’s a situation where those productive outs are coming now.”
The Braves scored as many runs (11) while Hudson was in the game Saturday as they scored while he was in the game in his previous eight starts combined.
“Of course that’s good for your starter if he can go out there and attack the zone and he has a lot of breathing room,” Heyward said of the early lead. “It kind of clicked for us in one game right there. That’s the result with this lineup if it happens that way. That can definitely happen – put up some runs, lot of hits, good ABs, some timely hits. Big win.”
Uggla’s two-run homer in the second inning helped build a lead, rather than cut into a big deficit the way his three-run homer did Friday in a 5-4 loss. He also had a sacrifice fly and a walk, and the long-slumping second baseman is 12-for-43 (.279) with six extra-base hits (three homers) and 12 RBIs in his past 11 games.
His team-high 16th homer came against Kyle Kendrick (7-6), after McCann’s leadoff single in the second.
Hudson gave up a run on three consecutive two-out singles in the third, then recorded 13 outs in the last 13 batters he faced, including a double-play grounder after Michael Young’s leadoff single in the fourth.
The 37-year-old pitcher went on six days’ rest rather than the customary four, because of an off day in the schedule Monday and the decision to have Hudson and Paul Maholm swap rotation turns Friday and Saturday.
Hudson was 0-6 in his past 10 starts before Saturday, including 0-3 with a 2.45 ERA in six June starts.
“(Ten games) a long time to not get a win, for anybody,” Hudson said. “Granted, there’s been times when I’ve (made mistakes) and didn’t deserve a win. And there’s been some times where I just came across some tough luck. Tonight’s a night where everything came together. It was nice to finally get on the board in the right column.”
The Braves averaged 1.56 runs per nine innings he pitched in June, including no runs while he was in three games. On Saturday, he improved to 139-3 lifetime (with 29 no-decisions) when given a lead of at least three runs.
“Any time you get Huddy a lead like that, statistics show we’re going to win that game,” McCann said. “We got on them early, were able to make Kendrick get his pitches up, and we had a great night all the way around
The Braves manufactured a run on three singles in the fourth, including a two-out RBI hit by Justin Upton. He was 3-for-23 with runners in scoring position and two outs before his sharp single to left pushed the lead to 4-1.
They tacked on two more in the fifth against Kendrick, who was charged with a season-high 12 hits and six runs in five innings. McCann led off the inning with a double, and B.J. Upton reached on a single that was initially ruled an error on third baseman Young. Johnson drove in one run with a ground out, and Hudson singled past Young to stretch the lead to 6-1.