Braves 4, Nationals 3

Hours after being picked as the Atlanta Braves’ starter on

opening day, Tim Hudson showed why he deserved the honor.

Hudson threw six scoreless innings and Justin Upton hit a

towering home run to lead the Braves to a 4-3 victory over the

Washington Nationals on Thursday night.

Hudson came into the game with a 5.40 ERA this spring. He

allowed six hits, struck out five and walked none.

”That’s him, right there,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

”His command on all his pitches was excellent.”

Hudson threw 45 of his 65 pitches for strikes.

”Today was the biggest step I’ve made this spring,” Hudson

said. ”My arm strength felt a lot better and that means a lot to

all of my pitches.”

Hudson will be making his third opening start for the Braves

when he faces Philadelphia on April 1. He also drew the assignment

in 2006 and 2008 after starting three openers previously with

Oakland.

”It’s an honor and a privilege to pitch on opening day with any

club, especially with this team,” Hudson said. ”I feel that we

have a lot of guy who were deserving of it.”

The 37-year-old Hudson was 16-7 with a 3.62 ERA last year

despite missing the first month while recovering from back

surgery.

”Why not give it to the veteran guy?” Gonzalez said of picking

Hudson over Kris Medlen, who was 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA after joining

the Braves’ rotation last season. ”The opening day start is a

special thing. They’ll downplay it, but it’s a special thing.”

Nationals starter Dan Haren, though, continued to have some

rough spots. He allowed eight hits and four runs in 5 1-3 innings

and has a 6.05 ERA this spring.

Upton’s homer leading off the sixth cleared the scoreboard in

deep left-center field. It was his fifth homer of the spring and

gave him 17 RBIs in 20 games.

”I thought that ball was never coming down,” Gonzalez

said.

Said Upton: ”They all feel the same when I hit them. I don’t

know if that was one of my longest or not.”

Haren gave up two singles following Upton’s homer and was pulled

after 90 pitches.

”I’m just kind of frustrated with the way it finished,” Haren

said. ”I’ve just got to do a better job putting away hitters and I

have to throw more strikes. But it was definitely an improvement

from the last start.”

Tyler Pastornicky and Chris Johnson each had a double and single

off Haren. Reed Johnson also had two hits for the Braves.

Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa both had two hits for the

Nationals.

NOTES: CF Roger Bernardino returned to the Nationals after

playing for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic and was 0

for 1 as a late-game replacement. … Nationals closer Rafael

Soriano had a root canal on Thursday, but is still expected to

pitch in a game against the Tigers on Friday. RHP Stephen Strasburg

is scheduled to start. … LHP Paul Maholm, who hasn’t allowed a

run over 14 2-3 innings in his past three outings, will start for

the Braves against the Phillies on Friday.