Instead of celebrating the determination Hudson displayed after enduring a four-run first inning at Turner Field on Friday night, the Braves were left to deal with the frustration of a season-high fifth consecutive defeat.
Ryan Zimmmerman delivered the knockout blow in the seventh inning with a two-out, three-run double that chased Hudson and gave the first-place Nationals all they needed to extend their division lead over the Braves with a 7-4 victory.
Before Zimmerman crushed an 0-2 fastball to the left-center-field wall in the seventh inning, Hudson had started to show some sudden signs of fatigue.
After retiring the first two batters he faced in the inning, he issued a five-pitch walk to Nationals reliever Chien-Ming Wang.
When Steve Lombardozzi followed with a double, the Braves opted to allow Hudson to carefully pitch to Bryce Harper, who drew a walk to load the bases.
After looking at one strike and swinging through another, Zimmerman made the Braves’ veteran pitcher pay for his final mistake of the night.
Jason Heyward’s one-out, eighth-inning home run off Wang only intensified the frustration the Braves felt after seeing a one-run deficit quickly grow to four runs as Hudson suddenly encountered struggles in the seventh inning.
With their sixth loss in their past seven games, the Braves fell two games behind the Nationals in the National League East race.
This was a strange outing for Hudson, who was charged with seven earned runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings.
The veteran had allowed two runs or fewer in 18 of his 23 career outings against the Nationals. This success had equated to a 2.03 ERA during this span.
But it was apparent this night would be different when the visitors tagged him for four hits in a 33-pitch, four-run first inning.
Zimmerman fueled the first inning with a double, and scored on Ian Desmond’s two-out, two-run single, and things went downhill from there.
Two batters later, former Brave Rick Ankiel drilled a two-run triple that gave Nationals starting pitcher Ross Detwiler a 4-0 lead before he threw his first pitch.
Hudson responded with a four-pitch second inning and found a groove that extended through the first two batters he faced in the seventh inning.
Before walking Wang, he had retired 16 of the previous 18 batters.
Detwiler also endured a night he would like to forget, as he issued four walks and needed 100 pitches to complete 4 2/3 innings.
He walked Dan Uggla to end his outing, and then watched helplessly as Matt Diaz greeted Wang with a two-run double that cut the Braves’ deficit to 4-3.
Diaz tarnished his productive evening when he was was thrown out attempting to stretch his double into a triple. The veteran outfielder had also scored the red-hot Martin Prado with a two-out, RBI single in the fourth inning.
Prado keyed the Braves’ offensive attack with two doubles and a triple.
He has batted .400 (34-for-85) in his past 22 games.