Braves lose fifth straight

In the season’s penultimate game, Justin Maxwell’s two-run, two-out homer off Manny Acosta lifted Washington to a 6-4, 11-inning win at Turner Field, where the Braves must win Sunday to avoid being swept by the Nationals and ending the season on a six-game losing jag.

“It [stinks],” first baseman Adam LaRoche said after the Braves wasted another strong start by Jair Jurrjens and fell to third in the National League East. “When you’re out of it, you’re out of it. But there’s no excuse to not go out and still get the job done.”

The 15-2 resurgence that made them playoff contenders last week is fading from view for the Braves, who have followed it with a five-game skid that dropped them a game behind Florida.

Jurrjens had a four-start winning streak snapped, despite eight strong innings. He allowed two runs, five hits and three walks with nine strikeouts, and finishes with a modest 14-10 record despite the National League’s third-lowest ERA (2.60).

“He pitched his rear end off,” manager Bobby Cox said of Jurrjens, who went 4-0 with an 0.97 ERA in his final five starts, and a 2.28 ERA in his last 16. “Typical start for him, where we score one or two runs."

The Braves scored two or fewer runs while Jurrjens was in 20 of 34 starts, and Saturday was the 12th time he failed to get a win while allowing two earned runs or fewer in six innings or more.

Brian McCann’s tying two-run single in the sixth gave the catcher a career-high 94 RBIs.

After Cristian Guzman’s two-run double put Washington ahead 4-2 in the 10th, the Braves answered with RBI pinch hits from Kelly Johnson and Greg Norton.

But in the 11th, Acosta (1-1) gave up his fifth homer in 36-1/3 innings pitched.

Diaz shut down

Matt Diaz didn’t want his game-ending out at third base Wednesday to be his final act of the season, but an infected right thumb assured it would have to be.

Diaz had a minor surgical procedure Friday to remove an infected cyst, and his hand was wrapped heavily Saturday.

“Since a month ago I haven’t swung a bat without feeling like I got jammed,” said Diaz, who wore a thumb guard and played through pain until he woke Friday with significant swelling.

The doctor removed a splinter, which likely came from a broken bat.

“Every time I swung, theoretically it would drive the shard further in,” Diaz said. “I probably should have said something earlier.”

The discomfort wasn’t reflected in his performance. In his last 50 games, he hit .347 with nine homers, 32 RBIs and a .999 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).

Hudson hopes to return

Tim Hudson will start the Braves’ season finale Sunday and hopes it’s not his Braves finale.

The Braves haven’t said if they intend to exercise a $12 million option on his contract for 2010. He wants to return, and has indicated he would take a lesser salary next season as part of a contract extension.

He’s 2-1 with a 4.08 ERA in six starts since returning after a 13-month recovery from elbow surgery.

“I understand the business side of it,” said Hudson, 34. “Obviously I don’t expect to go out there and it be the highest salary year I’ve ever made. I understand where I’m at in my career, and coming off of an injury I know there are some question marks. Hopefully this last month, me going out there and pitching showed they can depend on me from a health standpoint.”

The former Auburn star has a 148-78 career record and 3.49 ERA, including 56-39 with a 3.79 ERA since being traded to the Braves from Oakland after the 2004 season.

“I think I’m optimistic about [returning to the Braves], and I hope they are, too,” Hudson said. “There’s some decisions that have to made on their part, and on my side. After the end of the season, we need to sit down and talk and see exactly where they are and get a good feel for each side. Obviously they know I want to come back, and I feel like they want me back ... .

“Whatever decisions they make are going to be what’s best for the organization, there’s no question about that. If it happens, I’m excited. Obviously I would love to end my career here. But if it doesn’t happen, my main concern is to go somewhere and win a World Series next year.”

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