The result has become so predictable, it's almost automatic: When Tim Hudson faces the Washington Nationals, he's a near lock to beat them.
After another gem, the kind Hudson seems to mass produce against the Nationals, he's 10-1 against them with a 1.49 ERA in his career. In Wednesday's win, he allowed a run in 7 2/3 innings, striking out seven and ensuring the Braves' two runs in the first inning would be all they needed.
They got one more, just for safety's sake, and beat the Nationals 3-1 to even the three-game series at one apiece.
There's no other way to say it: Hudson owns the Nationals. From lineups that featured Brad Wilkerson and Jose Guillen to Nick Johnson and Austin Kearns to Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn, Hudson's dominance has been constant, and it's been unequivocal. On Wednesday night, he was even able to change his approach almost completely from what the Nationals expect to see from him; rather than peppering in his off-speed pitches, Hudson relied mostly on a sharp sinker that fell out the bottom of the strike zone.
"First of all, he's got so many pitches he throws for strikes," said Dunn, who went 0-for-4 and left three runners on base. "His sinker's so good that you have to respect it. When he's throwing it down, and throwing it for strikes, it's a long day like it was today."
Where Hudson predictably whistled past the Nationals, Livan Hernandez was unable to repeat the success he had the last time he faced the Braves, when he allowed a run in 5 1/3 innings. He lasted just 4 1/3 innings on Wednesday, making his shortest start of the year.
Hernandez put three of the first four batters of the game on base, and the Braves got the winning run on a double steal they executed to perfection.
Eric Hinske struck out for the second out of the first inning, and when Brian McCann broke for second, the Nationals got him in a rundown. But Ian Desmond and Adam Dunn couldn't close the gap on McCann soon enough, and Jason Heyward broke for home. Dunn's throw was a hair too late, and Heyward slid around Ivan Rodriguez's tag.
"We might have been able to do it better, but I thought we did it good," Dunn said of the way the Nationals played the rundown. "He beat it. I mean, he's fast."
Michael Morse drove in the only run for the Nationals, singling home Ivan Rodriguez in the fifth. But that was all the Nationals got on Hudson. whose command of them never seems to change.
"He's one of the top three in the game," Dunn said. "He's really good."