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Fri, Apr 19, 2013 - 7:05 PM ET
 

Braves-Pirates Preview

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The Atlanta Braves haven't shown any signs of slowing down from their magnificent home run pace, but taking Pittsburgh's Wandy Rodriguez deep could prove to be a challenge.

A few more blasts might help Tim Hudson reach a major milestone.

After going deep four times in a series-opening win over the Pirates, the Braves look to continue their power surge Friday night against Rodriguez as they try to help Hudson earn his 200th win.

Atlanta (13-2) has hit 29 homers in its first 15 games, becoming the first NL team with such a torrid start since Cincinnati in 2006.

All of the Braves' runs Thursday came via the long ball. B.J. and Justin Upton each hit solo homers - Justin's was his major league-best ninth - while Chris Johnson and Evan Gattis added two-run shots in a 6-4 victory to help Atlanta match its best 15-game start in franchise history.

"I was a little surprised,'' Gattis said after hitting his fifth homer in his first 43 major league at-bats, a tiebreaking two-run shot in the eighth. "I didn't think I hit it hard enough. It started hooking and I'm glad it did because I don't think it would have gone out otherwise.''

Opposing pitchers haven't had any margin for error against Atlanta, which is 13-0 when it scores. That's an intimidating prospect for Rodriguez (1-0, 1.00 ERA), who missed his latest start with a tight hamstring after leaving his April 8 outing at Arizona after 2 1-3 innings.

Perhaps the left-hander won't be too fazed by the Braves' torrid start at the plate, though. Rodriguez, who's facing Atlanta for the first time with the Pirates (7-8), hasn't allowed a Braves player to take him deep since July 6, 2008. He went 2-2 with a 1.80 ERA in his eight starts since against Atlanta while with Houston.

Rodriguez has generally done an excellent job of keeping the ball in the park since joining Pittsburgh. After allowing four homers in his first three games with the Pirates, he's given up four over 65 innings spanning his last 11 starts.

The Upton brothers are a combined 3 for 15 against Rodriguez, though they've each homered once.

The Braves counter with Hudson (2-0, 2.50), who has the majors' fourth-lowest home runs per nine inning rate (0.63) since 2007. He gave one up to Washington's Danny Espinosa on Saturday, but allowed only three other hits over seven innings while outdueling Stephen Strasburg in a 3-1 win.

That was Hudson's 199th victory, meaning Friday will be his first chance to become the 110th pitcher in major league history to reach 200.

"I'm just thrilled to have had the opportunity to play as long as I have," Hudson told the Braves' official website. "When I was in college, and even when I first started playing in the big leagues, 200 wins seemed like forever away. A lot of good things have to go right for you."

Plenty has gone right for Hudson in his recent starts against the Pirates. He's 4-2 with a 2.01 ERA in his last six outings versus Pittsburgh, and he hasn't allowed a homer over 40 1-3 innings in that stretch.

Garrett Jones is 5 for 11 against Hudson, but the other five members of the Pirates' Thursday lineup against righty Julio Teheran that have faced Hudson are a combined 8 for 53 (.151).

Leadoff hitter Starling Marte, who hasn't seen Hudson, struck out in all five at-bats in the opener as his 10-game hitting streak came to an end.

Tagged: Braves, Pirates, Tim Hudson, Wandy Rodriguez, Justin Upton

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