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Must C Clutch: Hudson slams a two-run shot for lead

ATLANTA -- Tim Hudson and David Ross share a bond that dates back to the days when they helped Auburn reach the 1997 College World Series. They have shared many memorable games together. But in their search of perfection, it might be difficult for them to top this one.

Hudson was simply magnificent as he proved masterful on the mound through eight innings, and victimized Ricky Romero with a two-out, two-run seventh-inning homer that gave the Braves a 2-0 win over the Blue Jays at Turner Field on Monday night.

Hudson is only the second pitcher -- Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo in 2009 is the other -- in the last 20 years to homer in the seventh inning or later of a scoreless game.

"That's as fun as it gets," Ross said. "As a teammate of somebody that good and a longtime friend, catching his game like that and him hitting a two-run homer, I love that stuff."

Hudson exited in the ninth three outs shy of recording his second one-hit shutout of the season and fourth of his career. Still, as he stood at his locker savoring the significance of his second career homer and enjoying a stellar mound performance, he admitted this might have been the most memorable game of a successful career that includes 171 wins.

"It would have been great to finish the game tonight," Hudson said. "But you can ask any starting pitcher if they have a good game and go deep and throw seven or eight shutout innings and get an RBI for the only run, it's an awesome day for them. To be able to hit a home run at your home stadium in front of your home crowd, the day after Father's Day, it's definitely my most memorable."

In a scoreless battle with Ross on third base and one out in the seventh, Diory Hernandez missed the squeeze sign. When he hit a first-pitch fastball against a drawn-in infield, Ross was easily retired by former Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar's throw to the plate.

As a livid Ross reached the dugout and began displaying his leadership skills by yelling about the need to do the little things right, Hudson drilled Romero's first-pitch fastball over the left-field wall.

"Romero was really good," Hudson said. "He had a good heater. I just got the head out. I knew he was going to throw me a fastball with a runner on first base, two outs and the pitcher up. If there was a runner in scoring position, I might not have been looking heater as much."

Hudson hit plenty of homers while proving to be one of the nation's top collegiate players in 1997. But his only other Major League homer had come against the Cardinals' Kyle Lohse on Sept. 12, 2009.

"That was nice," Ross said. "I was all down because I got thrown out at the plate. Next thing I hear a big crack. I was like, 'That sounded good.' I turn around and he's trotting around the bases like an old man."

Having gone 1-4 with a 5.80 ERA in the seven starts he had made since a one-hit shutout against the Brewers on May 4, it could be said Hudson was recharged during this outing. Including Escobar's ninth-inning infield single, the Braves' 35-year-old right-hander allowed just two hits and recorded a season-high eight strikeouts in eight-plus scoreless innings.

After issuing a ninth-inning walk and allowing Escobar's single, Hudson handed the ball to rookie closer Craig Kimbrel, who needed just 15 pitches to breeze through the heart of the Blue Jays' order with three strikeouts. Kimbrel's 20th save preserved Hudson's gem.

Before issuing the ninth-inning leadoff walk, Hudson had retired 20 consecutive batters and proven perfect in seven of the previous eight innings.

"He shut us down completely with an outstanding sinker, hard slider, late action to all of his stuff," Toronto manager John Farrell said. "Pitched ahead in the count, got a number of swing and misses obviously with the strikeouts and when he was in a fastball count his sinker was late around the plate."

Hudson was nearly as dominant as he was May 4. The only two balls the Blue Jays hit out of the infield came in the second inning via a J.P. Arencibia's single and Jayson Nix's inning-ending flyout to right field.

Ross said this game reminded him of when he was also behind the plate in that game against Milwaukee.

"My job is really easy when he's making pitches like that," Ross said. "The pitches are sinking and moving. It doesn't take any rocket scientist to call a game for a guy that's got that kind of stuff."

Hudson's masterpiece halted his somewhat shocking struggles against American League opponents. In the 18 previous Interleague starts he had made since joining the Braves in 2005, he was 2-14 with a 6.75 ERA.

Of course, Hudson was also hitting just .040 entering this game. But Ross and many of his teammates have already started preparing to listen to the veteran right-handed hitter once again start talking about his offensive prowess.

"We'll listen to it for a couple weeks and then we'll tell him to turn the page," Ross said. "Actually, I'm going to walk in tomorrow and tell him to turn the page." Comments