Braves pitcher Tim Hudson lasted five innings and threw 96 pitches, giving up two runs on six hits and two walks.
ATLANTA — Tim Hudson said “nothing was great” about his season debut.
Nothing, except the outcome.
Hudson survived five tough innings to win in his return from offseason back surgery and the Atlanta Braves held on in the ninth to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-3, on Sunday.
Hudson (1-0) pitched in the majors for the first time since his operation last November to repair a herniated disc. The right-hander threw 96 pitches while giving up two runs on six hits and two walks. He allowed at least one baserunner in every inning.
Hudson gave a mixed review of his performance.
“My cutter was pretty good, coming in on the lefties. My fastball wasn’t exactly how I wanted it, but it was good enough. … I was able to keep them off-balance good enough and locate just good enough,” he said.
“It wasn’t a great day from me, stuff-wise, but I feel like it was step better from me than my last time out, my last rehab start,” he said.
Hudson’s return was especially important to the Braves’ rotation after Jair Jurrjens’ struggles got him demoted to Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday.
“Everybody was pumped up,” said Martin Prado, who hit his second homer off Brad Lincoln in the seventh.
“He’s one of those guys who goes out there and performs and gives everything he has. He gives us a chance to stay in the game. He kept us in the game. He’s a battle guy. We love to have him back on the team.”
The Pirates stranded 10 runners, including eight against Hudson.
“He gave us a great opportunity to win,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He gave us five innings. He got out there for the first time in a while and probably wasn’t as sharp as he wanted to be. The base hits that he gave up were at least ground balls. His ball was sinking. It was nice to see.”
Craig Kimbrel gave up one run in the ninth before earning his eighth save. Jose Tabata hit a one-out double, advanced to third on Andrew McCutchen’s groundout and scored on Kimbrel’s wild pitch. Kimbrel struck out Garrett Jones to end the game.
Michael Bourn had three hits and a walk for the Braves.
Tabata had three hits, including a two-run single.
Kevin Correia (1-1) gave up two earned runs on four hits and five walks in 4 1-3 innings. He walked three batters in the fifth, including a bases-loaded pass to Dan Uggla that snapped a 2-all tie.
The Pirates loaded the bases in the second on singles by Pedro Alvarez and Michael McKenry and a walk to Alex Presley. Tabata drove in two runs with a single down the right-field line.
The Braves scored an unearned run in the third. With one out, McCutchen dropped Hudson’s fly ball to center field for an error. After Bourn walked, Alvarez bobbled Prado’s grounder at third base for another error. Hudson scored on Freddie Freeman’s sacrifice fly, cutting the Pirates’ lead to 2-1.
The Pirates’ ninth-inning rally made the errors and the unearned run more painful in Pittsburgh’s clubhouse.
McCutchen couldn’t explain his drop.
“I don’t know what really happened,” McCutchen said. “Routine fly ball. Just missed the ball. You shake your head.
“I hate that it happened. We had two errors that inning. … We didn’t get the job done. I didn’t get the job done. (Correia) doesn’t deserve that loss. I wish I could take it for him.”
Added Alvarez: “We have to make the plays behind him. If we make the plays, it’s a different story.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said it was an uncharacteristic defensive lapse for his team.
“We had been rolling for over a week playing really good defense,” Hurdle said. “It was just today we put two on in one inning. You give a team five outs, you’re lucky to get out of it with just a run.”
Hurdle called McCutchen’s drop “just a miss.”
“The ball gets in the sun a little bit but you think you’ve got it,” Hurdle said. “It doesn’t happen very often but it does happen, even up here.”
Tyler Pastornicky’s double to left-center off Correia in the fourth drove in Uggla, who walked.
Jonny Venters, Atlanta’s third reliever, ended the eighth by striking out Josh Harrison with two runners on.
NOTES: Presley was 0 for 4 as his 12-game hitting streak ended. … The Pirates ended their streak of seven straight wins when scoring more than one run. … Braves C Brian McCann returned after missing only one game with a strained muscle in his right side. … The five walks were one below Correia’s career high. … Braves LHP Mike Minor will look for his third win when he faces James McDonald in Monday night’s final game of the four-game series. The Braves, who have won two of the first three, will try to win their sixth straight series since losing three straight at the Mets to open the season.