With his wife and daughter watching in the stands, along with his father, brothers, nieces and nephews, Hudson won his 200th game the same way he won his first with Oakland in 1999. He gave up one earned run in seven innings and showed why he’s still the Braves ace at age 37.
He didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning and only three in all, including an infield hit, while coaxing 11 groundball outs. He gave up a run in the fifth on Tyler Moore’s leadoff double and two groundouts. Otherwise the only time the Nationals threatened was after Ian Desmond tripled to lead off the seventh inning.
That just gave Hudson a reason to buckle down. He stranded Desmond on a groundout and two of his six strikeouts.
“It didn’t even feel like we were pitching really until we had the runner on third in the seventh inning with nobody out and we left him there,” said catcher Evan Gattis, who went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. “It was awesome. It was a privilege.”
After a season-worst six-run night in Pittsburgh and a Craig Kimbrel blown save in Colorado on Justin Upton’s misplay in left field, Hudson had some time to get some perspective on what it would be like to reach the 200-win plateau.
He became the fifth pitcher to get there in an Atlanta Braves uniform and followed in the footsteps of Greg Maddux (1998), Tom Glavine (2000) and John Smoltz (2007) by doing it at Turner Field.
“It’s a great accomplishment for anybody, but I feel like it’s something along the way,” Hudson said. “Hopefully I can accomplish more in this game. I feel like I can play for a while. I haven’t really missed a beat from 17, 18 years ago. Just a little more crafty nowadays. Definitely more pop.”
That would be Hudson, slipping into the Alabama drawl, doing a little bragging on his first home run since June 20, 2011 against Toronto and third of his career. This is a guy who likes to kid about his hitting prowess and old slugging days at Auburn. He’s got fodder now to last him the season.
Hudson went to the opposite field, no less, off left-hander Zach Duke. He got an assist on the play from right fielder Bryce Harper who appeared to help it over the fence as the ball caromed off his glove. That little detail might not make it in the story Hudson tells his grandkids.
“That was going to clear the fence, right?” he said, with a twinkle in his eye.
His wife Kim Hudson hugged their daughter Kennedie and then put her hands to her cheeks as he was running the bases, one of which ended up in his locker after the game. Brian McCann, who was at Turner Field Tuesday night between minor league rehab games, had both fists raised in the air in the Braves dugout.
This was no fluke, either. Hudson had very nearly homered in his first at-bat too off Gio Gonzalez in the second inning, but “settled” for a double off the left field wall. Hudson is hitting .429 on the year, now 6-for-14.
And oh yeah, he’s 3-1 in six starts now with a 3.86 ERA. Two of Hudson’s wins have come against the Nationals, helping the Braves run their record to 5-0 against Washington this season.
“It was a fun game,” Hudson said. “Obviously it’s kind of surreal—nobody expects to go out there and hit a home run. It was a fun night all the way around.”
Glavine won his own 200th game at Turner Field, took the loss as a Met to Smoltz when he won his 200th. But never did he homer in the process.
“I hit my one home run,” Glavine said. “That’s all I need.”
Glavine was at Turner Field Tuesday broadcasting for Sports South. He was down in the clubhouse after the game, offering Hudson an “Atta boy” and a handshake.
Just a few minutes before, Hudson had suggested in his postgame interviews he didn’t think he belonged in the same conversation with Glavine and Maddux and Phil Niekro, all Braves who topped 300 wins in their careers. But Kris Medlen sits only a locker over and had reminded Hudson before the game that he’s still gunning for his 21st win.
“Nowadays, the game has changed with innings pitched and all that stuff,” Medlen said. “(Winning) 200 is a huge deal. For him to be able to do that is insane….
“When you think about averaging it out, it’s 20 wins a year for 10 years. It’s just crazy to think about, especially beating Pedro (Martinez) and Randy Johnson and Cy Young award winners in the American League. He’s earned every single one of them, and I’m sure he’s not done.”