Braves-Cubs Preview

Tim Hudson couldn’t have asked for a much better return from

back surgery last month. His second start of the season, however,

left a little to be desired.

The Braves right-hander will try to bounce back from that outing

Wednesday against the Chicago Cubs, who are hoping to get another

superb effort from starter Paul Maholm.

Hudson allowed two runs over five innings in his season debut

April 29, a 4-3 victory over Pittsburgh that came after recovery

from an offseason procedure to fix a herniated disk.

The right-hander, though, had trouble building on that effort,

especially in the thin air of Colorado, as he was tagged for seven

runs over six innings during his next outing Friday.

The right-hander gave up five of those runs to the Rockies in

the first inning but retired 11 in a row at one point before

yielding single runs in each of his final two frames. He escaped

without a loss when the Braves (19-12) rallied for an extra-inning


This time, Hudson (1-0, 6.55 ERA) might have to outduel a

rejuvenated Maholm (3-2, 5.13) to avoid his first defeat of the


The left-hander has yielded one run in each of his three

consecutive victories after going 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA in his first

two starts for the Cubs. He gave up a season-low three hits and

walked none during a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on


“Being aggressive, mixing pitches, mixing location,” he said

when asked about the keys to his win streak. “I would say more of a

confidence and a comfort factor, getting used to everything and

just kind of pitching my game.”

If his past matchups with Atlanta are an indication, Maholm

might be in line for another strong outing. In six starts against

the Braves, he’s 1-1 with a 1.58 ERA, his lowest against any

opponent in his career.

He’ll face a team that’s scored four runs over its two games at

Wrigley Field this week after totaling 44 in its previous five

contests. Atlanta, though, managed to even the series with Chicago

(12-18) with a 3-1 victory Tuesday night.

Dan Uggla drove in the go-ahead runs in the eighth inning off

struggling veteran Kerry Wood, who threw his glove and hat into the

stands after getting the final out of the frame.

“I was just trying to get something in the air towards the

middle of the field and it ended up finding a hole,” Uggla said.

“That’s what we needed.”

Hudson will try to give the Braves more of what they need by

improving on his 2-0 record and 3.94 ERA in five career starts

against the Cubs. He’s also 1-0 with a 2.91 ERA in three outings at

Wrigley Field.

Wednesday’s game is expected to be Chipper Jones’ last at

Wrigley but it’s doubtful to be much sadness coming from the

seven-time All-Star and 1999 NL MVP. Jones is a career .220 hitter

in that park during the regular season and has batted a combined

.306 everywhere else.

He might not have much luck in boosting that average at Wrigley

on Wednesday as he’s 0 for 6 in his career against Maholm.

Michael Bourn, who is riding a 12-game hit streak, is 7 for 29

with 10 strikeouts versus the left-hander. Maholm has fanned only

two other batters more often, former NL players Prince Fielder (15)

and Adam Dunn (12).