Three Cuts: D-backs take series with 5-3 win over Braves
MAY 15, 2013 7:47p ET
1. Tim Hudson's mid-inning crisis continues
If one were to fall asleep within the first hour of practically any Hudson start this season, that person would likely assume the veteran is well on his way to a fourth All-Star appearance. But that has not been the case, as the wheels have eventually fallen off for the 37-year-old of late — he allowed four of his five earned runs in the fifth inning on Wednesday afternoon.
Hudson finished with a final line of five innings pitched, eight hits, two walks and four strikeouts. Six of the 10 base runners he allowed came in that decisive four-run inning.
It was Hudson's first loss in 10 career games against Arizona.
He entered the game 7-0 with a microscopic 1.33 ERA against the N.L. West opponents.
"I felt really good out there pitching," Hudson (4-3) said after the game. "I didn't have a great breaking ball. I didn't have a really good curveball today. But I felt like my fastball was good. I didn't think they were on my fastball all day. When I got in trouble I got in trouble with some off-speed stuff."
The middle-inning conundrum for Hudson is a bit perplexing, as he has traditionally been fortunate through that portion of his outings over his career. When looking at his inning splits in thirds (1-3, 4-6, 7-9), he has posted his lowest career ERA in innings 4-6.
Perhaps that's a function of fortune — over his career, opposing hitters have posted a higher batting average and on-base percentage during those innings; he's also posted his worst strikeout-to-walk ratio over that stretch — but it's still notable that his numbers have fallen off a cliff the proverbial "second time through the lineup" in 2013. Here are his splits this season:
Innings 1-3: 2.33 ERA
Innings 4-6: 9.45 ERA
Innings 7-9: 2.25 ERA
At the very least, it is something to keep an eye on moving forward.
It was the first time this season Hudson lost when provided three or more runs of support. The Braves (22-18) wrapped up their 10-game road trip with a 4-6 record.
"It's never easy playing out west. … We didn't play very good baseball when we got to San Francisco or here," Hudson said. "It's a long season. We're gonna hopefully get hot here again and start rattling off some wins and hopefully get back to where we want to be."
2. Brian McCann led the 'Missed Opportunity Parade'
Atlanta tallied 11 hits in the 5-3 loss, but, par for the course, could not muster the timely hits to drive in the runs necessary to finish off the western swing on a high note.
The Braves finished the game 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
That statistic is a tad misleading — just a tad — since first baseman Freddie Freeman "drove" in Atlanta's first run by drawing a two-out, bases-loaded walk in the third inning, which does not count as an at-bat. But the futility remains.
In fact, it was McCann who strode to the plate right after Freeman's walk in the third, only to just miss on a big cut and pop out to right field. Thus started the night's trend. Four of the veteran catcher's five at-bats came with runners (mainly Freeman, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles) in scoring position. He finished 0-for-4 in such situations, an unlikely result for such a consistent hitter.
It's simple: the Braves struggle enough as it is to drive in runs and need McCann, who leads the team with 10 RBI since his entry into the lineup, to produce more out of the No. 5 hole than he did Wednesday.
Since 2011, when Fredi Gonzalez took over as the Braves manager, the franchise has had very little success with runners on — they rank 26th in batting average (.248) and 23rd in OPS (.712). The rankings are equally similar this season (21st and 18th, respectively), despite the offseason additions.
Without question, it's a trend the team would like to break moving forward.
"We had people on base and we just hit balls, line drives right at them. They made some plays defensively. It's just the game, the way it goes sometimes. … We left a couple people on base with the right guys at the plate and hit the ball hard," Gonzalez said. "That said, you get on the plane, go home, take an off day and hopefully those bats keep coming around this weekend and start finding some holes."
3. The Diamondbacks got the best of the Braves, but not Justin Upton
There were two opposing dynamics to the road trip's finale in the desert: The exemplary performance by the former Diamondbacks star versus the series victory by Arizona.
From the start at Chase Field, Upton was phenomenal.
He finished the series 5-for-10 with a home run, three runs and two RBI. He also walked four times while striking out just twice. While the power numbers are not coming in droves like they were in April, his showing against Arizona underlined his increased patience at the plate as more and more opposing pitchers try to avoid mistakes against him. He has drawn a walk in one-fifth of his plate appearances this month. If he finds a middle ground between the home runs and the walks, he'll find himself right back on his MVP-level pace.
(It should also be noted that the throw-in to the Upton trade, Chris Johnson, finished the series 4-for-7 with a home run, three RBI and a walk. He sat out the rubber match as Juan Francisco — the man with the golden sombrero on Wednesday — received the start at third base.)
But, for the Diamondback fans who were not fond of letting Upton go, especially at the price they received, there was some level of retribution in knowing their team came out on top in the young slugger's first homecoming.
Perhaps the Braves let the game and/or the series get away from them — sound familiar yet? — but the Diamondbacks rebounded nicely from a 10-1 rout in Game 1 to post back-to-back solid outings. Arizona is now 23-18, just one game behind the Giants in the division.
Atlanta is now 10-17 since their MLB-best start of 12-1.
Also fitting: Martin Prado, the other centerpiece to the Upton deal, made the final out of the series. Talk about symmetry.
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