Tim Hudson can do it all. 200 wins and right field home run power? Yeah, he's got that. Maybe he can give BJ some hitting lessons. Also, the CPA accurately predicted that Simmons would have a big day, since he went 3/5 with a huge leadoff homer that set the tone of the game. If you'd told me that Simmons and Hudson would be the two home runs hitters in this game, I would have laughed. The Braves also went 4-11 with RISP, which makes me happy. Toss in 6 two out RBIs, and I'm moved to very happy. That's as far as I'm going this early in the season though. The meter stops are very happy.
Gattis doubled, Huddy doubled, Chris Johnson doubled, the Braves had 12 hits, 6 walks, 11 Ks, and saw 144 pitches in the game. We were patient when we wanted, and we jumped on Gio Gonzalez's bad first pitch fastballs when we wanted. It was a nice combination of power and precision that I want to see more of from this team. We worked over Gio's pitch count early and pushed him up to 95 pitches by the end of the 4th inning. The prediction that he would be too fine and walk a bunch of Braves also played out. He had 5 walks and 7 hits in 4 innings of work. It was about as big of a disaster as he could have if he didn't have the K ball working.
On the other side, Tim Hudson went 7 innings with only 3 hits and 2 walks. He had a no-hitter going through 4 innings. He held the Nats to 0-5 with RISP, and only gave up one big hit to one of his noted threats, Ian Desmond's triple. Not having Werth in this game was a huge benefit to the Braves, because he's the only other guy on the Nats that's had documented success against Huddy. The real killer was Hudson having a 11-4 grounder-fly ratio with 6 Ks. That's dominant for a sinker ball pitcher when he's rolling over batters. Then, after 7 innings of work, we send in Varvaro to shut down the rest of the game. Varvaro didn't give up a single baserunner in 2 innings, and his ERA is now at 1.23 for the year. That's more good work out of an already solid bullpen, something the Nats would beg-borrow-steal to get. Their bullpen gave up 3 more runs after Gonzalez's early departure, and they now stand 55 ERA points above the MLB average. The Braves are #1 in the MLB and 180 points under the average. It's like comparing a battleship to a sinking rowboat with no beer cooler.
I don't normally give game MVPs that much anymore, but Hudson's performance yesterday warrants one. He gets the game ball for his 200th win, his homer off the top of Bryce Harper's glove, and his double in the game. He's the very definition of the "athlete" moniker that Tom Glavine is always crowing about during Braves broadcasts. The Braves improve their home record to 8-2 with Hudson's win, and that means we now have the best home record in the NL, and a 4.5 game lead on the Nationals in the division. While it's a long season, I certainly wouldn't mind driving the Nationals down in the standings even further. My dream is that we get to the All-Star break with the biggest division lead in baseball, demoralizing all other opponents, and making someone else play in that stupid one-game fiasco at the end of the season while we secure the division.
The CPA was pretty good last night, predicting a big win over the Nats. The record is now 12-8. However, we're heading into one of the games I'd earmarked as a tough test for our lineup. Can we keep the train rolling for Game 3? What does the CPA think?
CPA Prediction Game 3: Braves 3 - Nats 0
The Braves only have one homer off of Zimmerman as a lineup, and that guy (Heyward) won't be playing. So, we can't rely on the long ball to get us runs in this matchup. We'll have to get them the way we have been so far in this series, with timely hitting. Maholm has had some bad outings on the road of late, but he could return to form here at home with a ice-cold Nats lineup hitting .212 against Lefty starters. I'm going on a limb and saying this could be a shutout in the Braves favor if Maholm channels his first three games.