Tim Hudson improved to 4-1 on the mound after striking out seven Mets and allowing just five hits and three runs in 7 1/3 innings in Sunday’s victory.
ATLANTA — When Tim Hudson pitches, the Atlanta Braves usually hit. That was the case again Sunday.
Hudson allowed five hits in 7 1/3 innings and the Braves gave him plenty of offensive support in a 9-4 victory over the New York Mets.
Freddie Freeman drove in three runs with three hits, including a homer, and Reed Johnson had three RBI as one of three players with two hits for the Braves, who fell one short of their high for runs this season.
The Braves scored five runs in the third inning and knocked Mets start Jonathon Niese out of the game in the fifth.
“Long innings are good when we’re hitting,” Hudson said. “I’ve been fortunate to be on the mound when we’ve been putting up crooked numbers.”
Hudson (4-1) struck out seven, walked one and was charged with three runs. He threw 94 pitches, 62 of them strikes.
“Huddy was great as usual,” said Mets third baseman David Wright, who took advantage of Hudson’s one mistake for a two-run homer.
The victory salvaged a split of the rain-shortened series for the first-place Braves, who had blown a late lead on Friday and lost, 7-5, to the Mets in 10 innings.
“I liked our approach at the plate,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose team has been very inconsistent. “We’re starting to click a little bit offensively.”
The Braves beat the Nationals, 8-1, on Tuesday to give Hudson his 200th career victory and have scored 39 runs in his seven starts this season.
Of course, Hudson often has something to do with that. He homered in his milestone victory and is still batting .375 after going 0-for-2 with a walk and sacrifice bunt against the Mets.
Freeman had a two-run double in the third inning, a homer to left field in the sixth and a single in the eighth. The left-handed hitting first baseman was 9-for-25 with six RBIs on during the Braves’ 3-3 homestand.
“When a hitter starts driving the ball the other way, you know he’s getting locked in,” Gonzalez said.
Niese was 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA in four starts against the Braves last season, holding them to a .175 batting average. But the left-hander didn’t look like the same pitcher from a year ago and he battled mightily with his control.
“Just no feel today,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “It’s all due to the fact it’s been six, seven days since he’s pitched. He was too strong. He didn’t have his good command.”
Niese (2-3) was pulled after loading the bases with none out in the fifth inning and was charged with seven runs after giving up seven hits, walking six and throwing two wild pitches. He missed the strike zone with 41 of his 83 pitches.
“I walked way too many guys,” said Niese, who hadn’t since April 28. “It’s embarrassing. I know what I have to work on. In bullpens I’m going to work on pounding the zone and throwing strikes.”
Hudson is 16-10 with a 3.62 ERA in 28 career starts against the Mets.
“Tim was on,” Collins said. “You can’t let those guys get that far in front of you.”
The Braves sent 11 players to plate in the five-run third inning as Niese allowed five hits, including two doubles, walked three and wild pitched in a run.
Justin Upton broke an 0-for-10 skid with a RBI single, Freeman drove in two runs with a double and Johnson had a RBI single in the big inning.
After Hudson had retired nine of the first 10 batters, the Mets got two of the runs back in the fourth. Daniel Murphy drew a leadoff walk and Wright followed by driving a 1-and-0 fastball over the center-field fence for his fifth homer.
Wright has homered in three straight games -- one off his personal high. He homered in four consecutive games in 2007.
But the Braves made it a five-run lead again in the fifth inning when Johnson greeted Mets reliever Jeurys Familia with a two-run single. Then Freeman connected with a 95 mph fastball from Familia on a 3-and-1 pitch in the sixth inning for his second homer of the season.
The Mets made it interesting in the eighth inning, though.
Pinch hitter Mike Baxter doubled leading off and Hudson was pulled after striking out Ruben Tejada. Luis Avilan got the second out, but then gave up a walk and RBI single to Lucas Duda. Cory Gearrin hit the only batter he faced to load the bases and Eric O’Flaherty walked in a run before striking out Marlon Byrd to finally get out of the jam with the Braves still up by four runs.
But the Braves added a run in the bottom of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Evan Gattis and Anthony Varvaro fared better than the other Atlanta relievers, striking out one in a perfect ninth inning.
Gattis and Andrelton Simmons each had two hits and Dan Uggla had the Braves’ first triple of the season and drew two walks. Gattis was 7-for-20 and a homer and four RBIs during the homestand.
Braves’ McCann to return today
ATLANTA — Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann is set to come off the disabled list after a final rehab game in the minor leagues on Sunday.
McCann is expected to join the Braves today in Cincinnati for their game against the Reds, according to multiple reports.
The six-time All-Star catcher had surgery in October on a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He was to finish a rehab stint with Triple-A Gwinnett on Sunday and, barring a setback, fly to Cincinnati with the Braves lafter Atlanta’s game against the New York Mets.
Entering Sunday’s game with Gwinnett, McCann was hitting .364 with four homers in six games with Class A Rome and Gwinnett.