For years, the Nationals have been suffering at the hands of Braves pitcher Tim Hudson, struggling to hit his complement of fastballs as he racked up a 10-1 record and 1.88 ERA against them. Maybe their payoff for all those struggles is coming tonight, or maybe they're reaping the benefits of signing hitters who have had success against Hudson.
Whatever the reason, their early success against him tonight is a new development.
They've had some help from the Braves, who have committed three errors and extended innings that should have been over. But they've also benefitted from the addition of outfielder Laynce Nix, who had a .929 OPS against Hudson before tonight and golfed a long homer onto the right field walkway in the fourth inning. Jason Marquis lost his perfect game on a homer to Martin Prado, and walked two batters in the fourth, but the Nationals lead Atlanta 4-1, despite all of their runs being unearned.
Aside from his success against Hudson, Nix's homer is significant for another reason. He's continued to get more playing time in left field over Michael Morse, and he's made the most of it; the left-hander has four homers in 27 games, and is hitting .283 as a starter. He gives the Nationals another source of left-handed power in their lineup - they haven't had much of that with Rick Ankiel and Adam LaRoche struggling - and he's a solid left fielder. If Roger Bernadina keeps getting time in center and Nix wrests at-bats from Morse in left, the Nationals' outfield could have a different look in the near future.
In the meantime, they've got a three-run lead on the Braves headed into the fifth inning. We'll see if they can hold on for a rare win over Hudson.