LOS ANGELES -- It's never a good sign when the pitching coach comes to the mound in the first inning, and for Tim Hudson on Monday night at Dodger Stadium, it wasn't.
Struggling once again in the early innings, Hudson gave up three runs in the first inning, a hole Atlanta couldn't climb out of, losing, 4-2, to the Dodgers in front of 28,292.
Hudson gave up an RBI single to red-hot Matt Kemp and then a two-run single to James Loney in the inning. Tallying four hits off Hudson in the first, the Dodgers also batted through the order, getting the Atlanta righty up to a pitch count of 33 by inning's end.
"If I take that [Loney] at-bat away, then it is a 2-2 ballgame. It was a tough at-bat for me and us," Hudson said. "They pushed three across in the first inning, which is tough for our club to try and rebound from that early. We were just fighting an uphill battle from the start."
Hudson gave up another run in the third inning, when Juan Uribe and Loney singled, before Jerry Sands hit a sacrifice fly to right field, his first Major League RBI.
"They just got the breaks and pitches that they needed to handle to score some runs and they didn't miss them," Hudson said.
In his next three innings, Hudson allowed no runs and no hits.
Telling for how his season has gone thus far, Hudson came into Monday's game having given up a total of eight runs in his first three innings, while surrendering none in innings four through eight.
Hudson's start Monday was almost a mirror image to his last start against the Marlins, in which he gave up five runs and seven hits in the first three innings, but then retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced.
"I think it is just a fluky thing and I don't really read into it that much," Hudson said of his early-inning struggles. "I felt good coming out of the 'pen. It is just one of those things."
In six innings, Hudson gave up four runs on six hits, while walking two and striking out four. He fell to 2-2 with a 4.05 ERA.
With Hudson giving up four runs so early, Dodgers starter Ted Lilly got the cushion of a large lead and made it difficult for Atlanta's offense to get anything started.
"I was locating my fastball and back-door slider a little better than it's been," Lilly said. "Mechanically, I was more sound. I was able to repeat [pitches] a little better. I got away with quite a few mistakes, too. With that said, I'm getting better instead of worse."
The Braves got only two runners in scoring position in the first six innings against Lilly before Nate McLouth hit a double down the right-field line with two outs in the seventh inning. But pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad struck out to end the inning.
"He changed speeds on his fastball and threw that curveball with success," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But we did hit the ball hard at times."
However, against Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton in the ninth inning, the Braves found some success. Brian McCann hit a single to begin the inning, followed by a double to left field by Dan Uggla. Freddie Freeman then grounded out, scoring McCann from third.
McLouth continued the inning with another double down the right-field line, plating Uggla and bringing the tying run to the plate in pinch-hitter Eric Hinske. But Hinske, who has been known to have a flair for the dramatic, struck out on three pitches to end the game.
"Even with the loss, tonight was probably the most comfortable I felt all season," McLouth said. "I felt in good rhythm. The last three days have been really good."
Gonzalez shuffled the lineup for the second straight game, moving Jason Heyward into the second spot and McLouth into the-eight hole, with the center fielder getting his second multi-hit game of the season.
Monday's loss marked the first time this season the Braves lost a series opener, after winning their first five to start the season.
"He [Hudson] kept us in the ballgame," Gonzalez said. "It was nice to see us get the tying run to the plate. Hopefully, that will continue tomorrow and we can get some at-bats going."
Quinn Roberts is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.