ATLANTA -- When Cliff Lee returned to Philadelphia in December, the Braves knew that their challenge had become greater. Once they had the chance to re-introduce themselves to the former Cy Young Award winner, they showed the Phillies why they feel good about themselves this year.
Before a standing-room-only crowd that was celebrating Friday night's home opener at Turner Field, Tim Hudson spotted the Phillies a three-run lead and then watched Chipper Jones cap a stirring comeback for a 6-3 victory over their division rivals.
With former skipper Bobby Cox among the 51,331 in attendance for Fredi Gonzalez's first home game as manager, the Braves erased that early deficit with a game-tying, three-run second inning and chased Lee after Jones drilled a decisive three-run double off him in the fourth.
"I couldn't have scripted it any better," said Jones, who topped his game-winning double by adding his 2,500th career hit. "Obviously, the first inning and a half was a little rough, spotting them three runs. You're not going to win too many ballgames doing that against them."
Once Jones' long drive bounced off Shane Victorino's glove as he raced toward the center-field wall, Jones strolled toward second base and fed off the energy of the raucous crowd.
"It was loud," Jones said. "On the bases-clearing double, it was deafening. That's what we need here. We're playing at a high level of baseball, but we need an environment that's intimidating for people to come into. Tonight, once we got rolling, it was intimidating."
The winners of four straight National League East crowns and riding the confidence created by Lee's addition to their already-talented rotation, the Phillies can create the same kind of intimidating presence the Braves did while they were winning 14 consecutive division titles.
But the Braves took advantage of a Phillies lineup that is without the injured Chase Utley and had their way with their left-handed ace.
Lee allowed six earned runs and 10 hits in just 3 1/3 innings, and has allowed six earned runs or more in four of his 14 career starts for the Phillies. The Braves also tallied six earned runs against him on Aug. 29, 2009.
"I think, more than anything, they just had a good day of hitting," Lee said. "I felt like I threw a lot of strikes. Yeah, my ball was up a little more than I would have liked. They just swung the bats well."
When the evening began. it appeared that Hudson was the one destined for a rough evening. Victorino began the game by bouncing a single off second base, and the second of the two Phillies' first-inning runs scored when Ben Francisco shot a two-out RBI single past Jones as he was racing to third to guard against Jimmy Rollins' stolen-base attempt.
An Alex Gonzalez error on a Lee grounder in the second inning led to another run. But by the end of the evening, Hudson had allowed just two earned runs in 7 1/3 innings. The 35-year-old has won each of his two starts this season.
"It's just one game," Hudson said. "Cliff had an off night. There's going to be nights where he's tough. We just caught him on one of his nights when he didn't have his good stuff. We were able to capitalize on it. I didn't feel like I had my best stuff tonight, but it was a game where we went out there and battled."
The tide started to turn for the Braves when Jason Heyward launched an opposite-field triple to the left-center-field gap to begin the second inning. Gonzalez followed with an RBI double, and Martin Prado continued to fuel the game-tying frame by bouncing a ground-rule double over the center-field wall.
"J-Hey kind of invigorated the crowd with his triple, and the hits just started coming after that," Jones said. "It was fun. It was a big game for us, and a good remedy for a three-game losing streak."
When the Braves left Milwaukee on Thursday afternoon, they were dealing with three consecutive losses and the frustration of a stagnant offense. But coming home seemed to revive their bats, as they continued to pound Lee in the fourth inning. Prado and Nate McLouth recorded consecutive singles to load the bases, setting the stage for Jones to drill his decisive double to deep center.
Jones' sixth-inning leadoff double gave him 2,500 career hits. He needs just three more RBIs to join Eddie Murray as the only switch-hitters in Major League history with 2,500 hits and 1,500 RBIs.
"I'm just glad one of the hits tonight came in a real big spot and really got us over the hump," Jones said. "It's one thing to get back in the game and tie it. But to put the nail in the coffin with three or four successive hits against an awesome pitcher was big for all of our confidence."
Given a comfortable three-run advantage, Hudson escaped potential disaster when he surrendered a pair of singles and botched a Rollins comebacker to load the bases for Howard with one out in the fifth inning.
Howard entered the game having hit .341 (14-for-41) with six homers in his career against Hudson. This time, Hudson had his revenge by getting the big first baseman to hit a comebacker that he turned into an inning-ending double play.
"I was in a tight spot right there," Hudson said. "Bases loaded and one out with him coming up isn't exactly how I drew it up. But I made some pretty decent pitches on him most of the night."
Gonzalez certainly didn't plan on spending his first home game staring at a three-run deficit against Lee, but as Hudson worked into the eighth inning without allowing another run, the skipper knew that Charlie Manuel wasn't the only manager who'd sent a top-notch hurler to the mound for this memorable home opener.
"That's why [Hudson is] a big-game pitcher for me," Gonzalez said. "He gave up three runs and didn't give up another run. He gave our offense a chance to start swinging the bats and get right back in it."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.