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Article:The Tomahawk Times - Braves continue winning ways, top Nationals 7-3

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ATLANTA -- Tim Hudson showed no ill-effects this time out and shut-down the Washington Nationals' offense for six and two thirds innings in a 7-3 Atlanta Braves victory on Monday at Turner Field.

"I definitely felt a lot stronger out there tonight," said Hudson. "[The velocity] wasn't there that start down in Florida, but it was nice to go out there today and look up there and see something with a nine in front of it instead of an eight."

There was some cause for concern when Hudson's last start lasted just three innings and saw a fastball that could not find its way out of the mid-80s. Those worries quickly disipated when Hudson pumped his fastballs in there at over 90mph. With his velocity back, Hudson frustrated Nationals hitters for the third time this season.

Washington threatened to break out on top when they put two men on with two men out to start the game. Austin Kearns followed with a sharp single to right that lead Christian Guzman to test the arm of Jeff Francoeur  and score from second. Francouer fired a perfect one hop throw to Brian McCann that hosed Guzman at the plate and ended the top of the first.

With the defense already shining, Atlanta put together a three-run second that had a little bit of everything. McCann greeted Matt Chico with his fifth homer of the season, a towering solo-shot to dead center that lead off the frame.

Three batters later, Hudson laid down a sacrifice bunt with runners on the corners that allowed Matt Diaz to sneak home from third when Ryan Zimmerman  failed to look him back to the bag before making the throw to first. Martin Prado followed with a booming double off the left field wall that scored Gregor Blanco and helped Atlanta open up a 4-0 lead.

Chico's rough outing got worse in the third, as he walked Hudson with the bases loaded to force home the fifth Atlanta run. Prado followed with a fielder's choice that extened the Braves lead to 6-0. Chico (0-4) lasted just four innings and allowed six earned runs on eight hits and three walks.

Hudson (3-1) went six and two thirds innings and limited Washington to two runs on 10 hits and a pair of walks while striking out two. The victory gives Atlanta a season-high five-game winning streak and propels them above .500, at 10-9, for the first time this year.

Diaz rejoined the starting line-up for the first time since April 17 against Florida, collecting three hits in four trips to the plate and scoring twice.

"Matty's lead our club, or real close to it, the last two years in hitting," said Braves manager Bobby Cox. "I think right now he's still hitting about .280 and everybody thinks he's slumping. He had a good night and it was good to see."

Some early struggles, including 15 strikeouts in his first 15 games, lead Cox to start Blanco in left during all three games against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Diaz struck out just 63 times in 135 contests a year ago. The three-hit game boosts his average to .288 on the year.

"Those off days gave me a chance to work on it," said Diaz of refining his approach at the plate. "I'm never going to complain about platooning in the big leagues. That's just ridiculous. This is a great squad, a great organization to be a part of, and when they give you days off it's time time check yourself and work on things."

Blanco recieved his fouth straight starting assignment on Monday. This time Blanco cracked the line-up in center to give Mark Kotsay a day off. Blanco responded by going 2-for-3 with a walk, making him 7-for-12 during this recent stetch. 

Cox also opted to start Prado in place of Kelly Johnson. Prado batted lead-off and went 2-for-5 with two RBI.

On Deck: John Smoltz will take the mound looking to make some history on Tuesday against Washington and lefty  John Lannan. Smoltz is just four strikeouts away from 3,000 for his career and could become the 16th pitcher in Major League history to do so. Game time is set for 7:10 PM EST.

  


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