Three Cuts: Hudson, Freeman help Braves top Mets

ATLANTA — Here are three things we learned from the Braves’ 9-4 victory over the Mets on Sunday (Bring Your Dog To The Park Day at Turner Field), the culmination of a weather-shortened weekend split:

1. Tim Hudson’s quest for 250 victories got off to a rollicking start

On Wednesday morning, roughly 12 hours after Hudson became the second pitcher in MLB history to belt a homer on the same night of his 200th career win (along with Bob Lemon, 1956), the Fox Sports South offices were buzzing with the following question:

If Hudson can notch 50 more victories, would he be in the Hall of Fame conversation?

My answer: If Hudson (201 wins, 3.41 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 1,832 strikeouts) has aspirations of pitching until 2016 (and beyond), he’ll need at least 50 wins, three seasons of a 3.15 ERA or less and, most importantly, a championship to round out his playing days.

Anything short of that . . . and Hudson’s remarkable career (eight seasons of 15-plus wins) would likely fall short of garnering major consideration for Cooperstown sometime in the 2020 decade.

From my perspective, the line of fringe Hall of Famers (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz are mortal locks), among the modern-day pitching crowd, forms behind:

**Pedro Martinez (219 wins, 2.93 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 3,154 strikeouts, three Cy Youngs, one World Series title)

**Jack Morris (254 wins, 3.90 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 2,478 strikeouts, one no-hitter, four World Series titles)

**Curt Schilling (216 wins, 3.46 ERA, 3,116 strikeouts, three World Series titles)

As for Sunday’s win, Hudson (three runs allowed, seven strikeouts in 7.1 innings) thrilled the crowd of 32,849 and stifled the Mets hitters, surrendering one walk and a two-run homer to David Wright in the fourth inning.

The Wright blast preceded a walk to Daniel Murphy, prompting Hudson to quip in the postgame, “It was a stooge move on my end, and I paid for it. Luckily, I was able to settle down and get some zeroes after that.”

Hudson (4-1) is the fifth pitcher to register his 200th victory in a Braves uniform (along with Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Phil Niekro). He’s also the benefactor of an Atlanta offense that has generated 37 runs in his seven starts, for an average of 5.3 per outing.

“I’ll take (the wins) any way I can get ’em.”

2. Freddie Freeman picked the perfect time to end his home-run drought

On Opening Day (April 1 against the Phillies), Freeman launched a season of sky-high expectations with a first-inning blast off Cole Hamels, sparking the Braves’ 7-5 victory and eventual 12-1 start.

But since then, the brawny first baseman has had to endure a mini-slump (average dipping below the customary .300), a stint on the disabled list (side strain) and aforementioned power drought.

But that all changed on Sunday, as Freeman tallied three hits (a triple shy of the cycle), two runs and three RBI, leading his team to victory . . . while sending the Braves (18-12) off to a nine-game trip on a high note.

“When he’s (crushing the ball), when any hitter’s driving balls to the opposite field, you know they’re getting locked in,” said Gonzalez of Freeman.

There are two big positives to derive from Freeman’s uneven start to 2013:

a. Both homers came off left-handed pitchers (Hamels, Jon Niese). Freeman only hit seven against southpaws last year.

b. Freeman already has four games of three RBI or more. In 2012, he didn’t reach that threshold until May 30.

3. The Braves’ bullpen was a tad shaky in the eighth inning

The Mets’ stanza began, innocently enough, with a pinch-hit double (Mike Baxter), Ruben Tejada strikeout — Hudson’s final batter — and then a Daniel Murphy after Luis Avilan took the mound for Atlanta.

But a wild pitch, David Wright walk, Lucas Duda single, John Buck hits batsmen (Cory Gearrin’s first batter) and Justin Turner walk (Eric O’Flaherty’s first batter) led to one New York run and the bases loaded.

At the time, with Atlanta up 8-4, New York’s Marlon Byrd (2 for 4) stepped to the plate, with a chance to tie a game that was seemingly out of reach. But O’Flaherty, the Braves’ primary setup man in the wake of Jonny Venters’ injury absence, mowed down Byrd on a fastball, prompting a thunderous helmet slam from Byrd.

“We got through the eighth inning,” said Gonzalez, invoking a survivalist’s tone. “The one thing we don’t want to do: When that door opens, you don’t want (relievers) walking guys, hitting batters, putting people on. (But) we got through it.”

Gonzalez then took the time to acknowledge O’Flaherty’s game-saving strikeout, while conceding he “wasn’t really comfortable with that matchup” against Byrd.

In the bigger picture, the Braves were able to rest closer Craig Kimbrel (three strikeouts on Friday) for Saturday (rainout) and Sunday, positioning him well for multiple appearances against Cincy and San Francisco this week, if necessary.