Tough luck costs Hudson in Wrigley duel

Tough luck costs Hudson in Wrigley duel

Tough luck costs Hudson in Wrigley duel
CHICAGO -- As a dejected David Ross sat in front of his locker staring at nothing in particular, he verified the extreme level of frustration the Braves felt when they were unable to provide a dominant Tim Hudson the minimal support he needed.

There was plenty of reason for the Braves' offense to feel frustrated after making those who position the Cubs' defensive shifts look like geniuses. But an offense that had compiled 44 runs in the five games leading up to this series was due for some bad luck.

The frustration Ross and his teammates displayed had more to do with the misfortune Hudson realized when his gem was tarnished by a two-out, seventh-inning single that beat the Braves' defensive shift and provided the Cubs all they needed to claim a 1-0 win on Wednesday afternoon.

"It's just tough," Hudson said. "A game like today, one little door that opens can mean the ballgame. That was an opportunity that they took advantage of. It's the littlest things that win these kinds of games."

With their second loss in three days, the Braves lost just their second series since being swept by the Mets to open the season. Limited to just four hits by Paul Maholm and two Cubs relievers, they were shut out for the third time this season and second time in seven games.

"I don't know if it wasn't meant for us to win today or what," Ross said. "But it was a frustrating day as a catcher when you've got a guy throwing that well and we don't pick up a [win]."

Making just his third start since returning from back surgery, Hudson had allowed three hits and faced the minimum before David DeJesus opened the bottom of the seventh inning with a leadoff single. After a sacrifice bunt and groundout moved DeJesus to third base, Ross went to the mound to remind Hudson that Ian Stewart and his .194 batting average were sitting behind LaHair, who entered the day hitting .373.

But this was not a day in which the aggressive Hudson was going to choose the cautious approach against a player who has compiled fewer than 300 Major League at-bats over three seasons. His sinker had already helped induce 14 groundouts, and he was in the midst of his first dominant outing of the year..

Thus Hudson aggressively attacked LaHair with a first-pitch sinker and then helplessly watched as the 29-year-old first baseman hit it through the left side of the infield, where shortstop Jack Wilson would have been positioned if a defensive shift were not in effect. Wilson raced to his right but was unable to come up with the ball as DeJesus scored what proved to be the game's only run.

"We did exactly what we wanted to do: got a ground ball, a weak ground ball really," Ross said. "It just happened to be in a spot where nobody was."

Hudson was confident LaHair would be unable able to pull his sinker like he had the two curveballs he had put in play during his two previous plate appearances. It only added to the frustration he felt when he turned and realized that Wilson had shifted behind the second-base bag.

"Off the bat, honestly I didn't know where the defensive guys were playing," Hudson said. "Off the bat, I thought there was going to be a play made on it, and Jack still almost made a play on it. It would have been a real good play. He did the best job he could to try to get there."

Hudson threw just 73 pitches while allowing just the one run and five hits in seven innings. He induced a pair of double-play grounders and breathed a sigh of relief when Starlin Castro was thrown out attempting to complete an inside-the-park home run after his liner snuck past a diving Jason Heyward in the fourth inning.

"In [my] four years here, ain't nobody thrown the ball like [Huddy] was throwing it today," Ross said. "As I was catching, I didn't feel like he should have given up a hit. That stinks we didn't score for him. That's a frustrating one when he pitches like that. It's just frustrating period."

When Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez inserted pinch-hitter Tyler Pastornicky for Hudson in the eighth inning, the Cubs lifted Maholm, who scattered three hits in his seven scoreless innings.

The Braves did not put a runner in scoring position until Cubs center fielder Tony Campana lost sight of Ross' pop fly before it fell to the ground behind second base. But with runners at first and second base, Maholm ended the threat by retiring Wilson and Hudson.

The Braves squandered doubles from Martin Prado produced in the sixth and eighth innings. He was left stranded in the sixth when Chipper Jones' line drive was hit directly to second baseman Darwin Barney, who was positioned directly behind the second-base bag.

Jones was also thwarted by a defensive shift in the fourth inning when his sharp grounder went directly to Barney behind second base. But when asked about how unlucky he and his teammates had been, the veteran third baseman pointed out Dan Uggla's decisive single in Tuesday night's win had actually beat the shift the Cubs were using against him.

"It obviously didn't work out for us this time, but that's how the ball bounces sometimes," Hudson said. "They had the breaks, and they won the game."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.