Uggla pushes streak to 31 games as Braves sweep Marlins

MIAMI — After Dan Uggla waited until the fifth inning to extend his hitting streak Monday and again Tuesday, Braves third baseman Chipper Jones told him he should get a hit in his first at-bat for the benefit of his nervous teammates.

Uggla obliged Wednesday night with a two-run single in the first inning of a 6-2 win against Florida, pushing his hitting streak to 31 games to tie the Atlanta Braves record and providing Tim Hudson with all the run support he would need.

Uggla went 3-for-5 to raise his average to .224 -- up 51 points since the streak began July 5 -- and equaled the Atlanta-era Braves record 31-game streak by Rico Carty in 1970.

“It’s crazy," said Uggla, a power hitter with a modest .258 career average. "Was that one of the things I thought about when I got over here? No, obviously not. But it’s a cool thing. This is an awesome organization, and to have some kind of record with an organization like this one is really special.”

“Let’s find a game for him to play tomorrow so he can stay hot," said manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose Braves are off Thursday.  "Send him to Gwinnett or Mobile, one of those places, so he can keep swinging it.”

Hudson (12-7) allowed six hits and two runs in 7 1/3 innings to win his third consecutive start, and the Braves won their fourth in a row to complete a sweep of the Marlins at Sun Life Stadium and finish a 6-3 trip with six wins in their past seven games.

“An early lead like that,  I’ve said all along that’s a pitcher’s best friend," said Hudson, whose shutout bid ended with Logan Morrison's eighth-inning leadoff homer. "You’re able to go out there and be aggressive. You don’t have to worry about making perfect pitches. Especially if you fall behind in the count, you can challenge guys a lot more."

Eric Hinske had a two-run double in the second inning, and Jose Constanza added three infield hits for the Braves, who've won 12 of their past 15 games against the Marlins.

Arodys Vizcaino, a highly-rated 20-year-old pitching prospect who was called from Triple-A and arrived two hours before the game, had a rocky debut with two walks and a hit batter in the ninth inning.

Jonny Venters bailed him out by coming in with the bases loaded and striking out Brett Hayes to end the game, notching his fourth save.

“I was a little nervous, maybe a little more than usual," said Vizcaino, who was informed of his callup late Tuesday and didn't sleep before getting to the airport at 4 a.m.

He walked the first batter he faced, Mike Stanton, on four pitches. Vizcaino then recorded two outs on a flyout and a strikeout by Morrison before hitting Wes Helms with a pitch and walking John Buck. That was all for the hard-throwing right-hander.

Uggla and Carty are tied for second on the all-time franchise list behind Tommy Holmes’ 37-game streak for the 1945 Boston Braves. Uggla’s streak is the longest in the majors this season, surpassing a 30-gamer by the Dodgers’ Andre Ethier.

Hinske’s double in a three-run second inning pushed the lead to 5-0, and there aren’t many safer bets than Hudson to win with a lead that large. He is 142-2 with 25 no-decisions in games when provided with a lead of three runs or more.

“Outstanding effort, getting us that deep in the ballgame," Gonzalez said of Hudson, the only Braves starting pitcher whose performance has remained consistently strong since the All-Star break. "Then Georgie [Sherrill] getting those two big outs there really made a big difference.

"And the kid [Vizcaino] gets in there in the ninth inning, shoot I was nervous for him. Get the jitters and that kind of stuff. But overall a nice road trip. Good victory here. We swung the bats well."

Until Morrison’s homer in the eighth, the only Marlin to advance beyond first base was Morrison on a stolen base in the second inning after Hudson inexplicably went to his windup instead of pitching from the stretch.

Hudson got some good-natured razzing from teammates after that incident, and joked afterward that he was only trying to give Morrison a chance to steal against strong-throwing catcher David Ross.

“He doesn’t have a lot of speed," Hudson deadpanned, "so I figured I’d give him a little bit of a shot. Rossy throws really well back there. I was really more or less challenging David, more than anything, and he let me down.”

After the Morrison single and stolen base, Hudson recorded 16 outs in the next 17 batters. He allowed two singles in that stretch through the seventh, and induced a double-play grounder after one of those hits.

“Our pitching’s been our strength all year," Hudson said. "I’ve been having some decent outings as of lately. I haven’t really felt as good as probably the numbers go. But you’ve got to go out there and battle and try to find ways to win and give your team a good chance to win when you’re not feeling at your best.

"I think our pitching’s going to get back on track when we get some guys back feeling healthy, the way they should. I think things are going to turn around and get back to where they were in the first half.”

Hudson struck out two of three batters in the seventh, then hit a wall in the eighth. After the Morrison homer, he gave up two singles and a walk to the next four batters.

Sherrill entered with the bases loaded to face Alfredo Amezega, who hit a sharp grounder to the left side. If it had gotten through, at least two runs would’ve scored. But third baseman Martin Prado made a terrific diving stop to his left and threw to second base for the second out.

One run scored on that play, and Sherrill struck out Greg Dobbs with two on to end the inning.

For Uggla, his hitting streak is the 13th of 30 games or more in the majors since 1990, and seven of those ended at 30 games. Only three lasted beyond 32 games.

Uggla added singles in the second and ninth innings, his first multi-hit game since a three-hit outing Saturday at New York. He was 3-for-14 in the next three games, extending his streak with infield hits in each of the first two games in the series against his former Florida team.

The first-inning hit was a relief not just for teammates pulling for him, but for Uggla himself.

“Yeah, finally, man," he said. "They’ve been making me sweat it those last few games. It was good to get those runs in, most importantly, and get Huddy an early lead.”