Atlanta's 14-game win streak started two days after veteran leader Tim Hudson was lost for the season.
ATLANTA — The Braves’ winning streak began two days after Tim Hudson broke his right ankle July 24. They lost the next day to the Mets, in a game that started 14 hours after Hudson’s horrific injury, and with rookie Alex Wood making his second major league start.
And they hadn’t lost since.
Hudson, who Friday made his first appearance at Turner Field since the injury and surgery, said he has watched intently every Braves game since he went down and couldn’t be more proud of how the entire team and young pitchers had risen to the occasion.
He also said the Braves’ streak before Friday was more impressive, in a couple of ways, than the 20-game streak he was a big part of with Oakland in 2002, which was featured prominently in the movie “Moneyball.”
“Honestly, I don’t think in Oakland we ever played as good as we’re playing now,” Hudson said. “We won a lot of games in Oakland during that 20-game winning streak that we probably should have lost, especially toward the end of it.”
Hudson went 4-0 with a 2.15 ERA in five starts during the Oakland streak, the no-decision coming in the 20th win when he was charged with five runs (two earned) in 6 2/3 innings, and the Athletics rallied to beat Kansas City 12-11.
“We definitely didn’t beat the teams like the Cardinals, and the Nationals and the Phillies, and a team like the Rockies,” Hudson said, naming teams the Braves swept during their streak.
EVEN WITH BIG LEAD, BRAVES WON’T LET UP: Even if the Braves continue at something close to their recent torrid pace and clinch the division title before mid-September, they could still have a couple of big reasons to keep the accelerator mashed and try to win as many games as possible.
For one thing, they will compete for home-field advantage through the National League Championship Series. (Home-field advantage in the World Series goes to the American League team by virtue of the AL's win in the All-Star game.)
They entered Saturday with the majors' second-best record at 71-45. But Pittsburgh was the team with the better record, and the Pirates would hold home-field advantage if it stayed that way and the teams met in a playoff series.
"Home-field advantage is huge in the playoffs, especially with the way we play here," catcher Brian McCann said before the Braves put their 13-game winning streak on the line Friday night at Turner Field against the Marlins. "We're going to give our best effort for the rest of the way out. No matter what the standings say or anything like that."
They led the second-place Nationals by 15 1/2 games in the NL East before Friday, more than double the next-largest division lead in the majors and the first time the Braves had a lead that big since winning the division by 19 games in 2002.
The Braves had a majors-best 38-15 home record before Friday, including 30 wins in their past 40 games. They had a 26-30 road record before sweeping six games in a trip to Philadelphia and Washington that ended Wednesday.
"That's a long-term goal, to win home-field advantage," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But I think we just need to keep going with our mindset of just winning series. If you keep winning series, I think good things happen."
The Braves had a majors-leading 2.67 ERA at home before Friday, and the Pirates were right behind them at 2.70.
"Absolutely, home-field advantage would be big," Gonzalez said.
The other thing: Gonzalez is not a manager who believes in resting players and coasting into the postseason if the opportunity presents itself, then attempting to pick up the intensity again when the playoffs start.
"You can't switch it off and on," he said. "You've just got to win series."
Schafer off DL Saturday: The Braves activated outfielder Jordan Schafer from the disabled list before Saturday's game, and catcher Gerald Laird probably won't be far behind.
Laird, recovering from a kidney-stone removal procedure, and Schafer, who's missed a month for a stress fracture near his right ankle, each played at Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday. Laird went 0-for-3 in the first and perhaps only injury-rehab game for the veteran.
Schafer was 2-for-32 with two doubles, one walk and four strikeouts in eight rehab games, including an 0-for-9 in his last two Thursday and Friday. The Braves wanted him to get at least a few more at-bats Friday before bringing him off the DL. Jose Constanza will be optioned to Gwinnett to open a roster spot for Schafer on Saturday.
"This guy's missed a lot of games," Gonzalez said of Schafer. "His timing was a little bit off. But (Thursday) was a lot better than the previous games."
Left-hander Paul Maholm threw an extended bullpen session Friday, and Gonzalez said they'd wait to see how he felt the day after that session before deciding if he was ready for a rehab start. Maholm is recovering from a left wrist sprain and contusion.