ATLANTA -- As the Braves stumbled through the first two games of their series against the Giants, they killed some of the optimism that surrounded them coming out of last week's All-Star break. But Tim Hudson managed to put an end to his team's short skid and generate some momentum in a timely manner.
Instead of heading into this weekend's key series against the Nationals with some frustration, the Braves will be attempting to feed off the energy that Hudson created by leading them toward Thursday's 3-2 win over the Giants, preventing a three-game sweep.
"It really is a big win after losing that game last night," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It could be the biggest win for us this year, depending on how that weekend turns around."
The Braves have won eight of their past 10 games and stand 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Nationals entering this weekend's four-game series.
"You never want to get swept, especially at home and when you've been playing pretty well before that," Hudson said. "It was a big win for us."
Coming off last Friday's four-inning effort against the Mets -- his shortest outing of the season -- Hudson gave the Braves a chance to make the most of the three hits they produced, all off Giants starter Madison Bumgarner. Freddie Freeman and David Ross damaged the left-hander's line with solo home runs, and Michael Bourn made his own contribution with a third-inning RBI triple.
That provided all of the necessary support for Hudson, who scattered eight hits and allowed two runs in his 7 1/3 innings. Hudson stranded a pair of runners in both of his final two full innings and exited after Buster Posey produced an eighth-inning sacrifice fly.
"As a starting pitcher, you want to try to set the tone for any game, especially after a late game," Hudson said. "[Wednesday night's game] started late and ended late. Guys were pretty tired this morning. As a starting pitcher in that situation, you want to go out and let those guys know they don't have to put up six or seven runs."
Because of Thursday's early 12:10 p.m. ET start, Hudson was at home when he fell asleep with Wednesday night's game tied at 1. Until he awoke on Thursday morning, the right-hander was unaware the Braves lost, 9-4, in 11 innings. But knowing the importance of winning this series finale, he returned to the stadium with that same determination that Ross first saw during their days together at Auburn University.
"He had a little bit in his craw, and when he gets that little bit of redneck coming out in him, he's really good -- and you can quote me on that," Ross said. "He knows he's a redneck. He's been fighting his sinker being more side to side than normal. He got his depth back today. That's when you know he's good."
Former Braves outfielder Melky Cabrera irritated Chipper Jones and many Atlanta fans with some of the gestures he made during the first two games of this series. But Hudson did not give in to the temptation of plunking Cabrera, who recorded a first-inning infield single and an eighth-inning triple that put him in position to score on Posey's sacrifice fly.
Hudson did seem irritated by the fact that Cabrera raised his hands toward the crowd after his triple and then slowly made his way toward the plate on the sacrifice fly.
"We won the game; that's all that matters," Hudson said. "Whenever they want to strut around when they lose, that's fine. That's their own thing."
Using Angel Pagan as his interpreter, Cabrera said he was not trying to show up anybody during this series. This marked the first time Cabrera returned to Atlanta after being released at the end of a one-year stint with the Braves in 2010.
"I just try to play hard baseball," Cabrera said. "Sometimes when the adrenaline is really high, things might happen. But I'm not trying to embarrass anybody. I'm just trying to play hard and be competitive."
Freeman got the Braves rolling when he opened the bottom of the second inning by sending a first-pitch fastball deep over the right-field wall. The 22-year-old first baseman has homered four times this month and has batted .337 (29-for-86) in the 24 games he's played since returning from the right index finger injury he suffered in early June.
Freeman's 13th home run of the season erased the lead the Giants had gained in the top of the second inning. Pablo Sandoval delivered a leadoff single and Brandon Belt halted his recent slump with a one-out single. That set the stage for Emmanuel Burriss to begin his first two-hit game since April 21 with an RBI single to right field.
"I just want to be able to help," Freeman said. "There was about a month and a half span where it was hard for me to do anything, so it's my turn to kind of step up and help the team out this way."
Paul Janish, who did not put the ball in play when he came to the plate with runners on second and third and one out in Wednesday's ninth inning, reached via a Sandoval error at third base to begin the bottom of the third inning. Two batters later, Bourn sent his go-ahead triple into the left-center-field gap.
Ross delivered what proved to be the crushing blow with his two-out, fourth-inning home run off Bumgarner. It was his fifth homer of the season and third in a span of 20 at-bats.
This marked the second time the Braves have won a game this year while tallying three hits or fewer.
"That [hits] column don't mean nothing," Gonzalez said. "It's that first column that says 'R.' And we had one more than they did."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.