ATLANTA - Tim Hudson took some good-natured ribbing from teammates about his first career triple, but the Atlanta Braves are completely serious about their airtight defense.
With a runner on in the ninth inning, Ryan Langerhans made a diving catch in left-center of Sean Casey’s drive to end Atlanta’s 7-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night.
Braves second baseman Marcus Giles provided another defensive highlight, running in shallow center field with his back to the plate to make a leaping catch in the seventh and rob Austin Kearns of a hit.
“I think our defense probably is a little overlooked, but pitching and defense are going to win you a lot of ballgames,” Langerhans said.
The Braves began the night in a four-way tie for the NL lead in fielding percentage, and the team’s rookie outfielders have played a big role. Langerhans has played all three outfield positions, committing only one error, and right fielder Jeff Francoeur is tied for second in the league with 10 assists despite playing in only 45 games.
Joining the rookies is center fielder Andruw Jones, who has won seven straight Gold Gloves.
“They pitch it and they catch it. If you can pitch and play defense, you can play for Bobby Cox. They give you 27 outs, and that’s it,” Casey said.
Langerhans’ running catch in the ninth clinched the win for Hudson (12-7). Kyle Farnsworth issued a one-out walk to Ken Griffey Jr. before earning his ninth save.
“The last one was dynamite,” Cox said, referring to Langerhans’ catch.
Hudson won his fourth straight start despite matching his career high with 12 hits allowed in 6 1-3 innings. Coming off consecutive complete games, he gave up four runs but improved to 5-2 since the end of June. The right-hander hasn’t yielded more than four runs in 10 straight starts.
Braves third baseman Chipper Jones joked that Hudson might have lasted longer if not for his two-run triple in the Braves’ six-run fourth inning.
“We’ve got to make them stop at second,” Jones said of the Braves’ pitchers. “They’re expending so much energy going to third. ... We’ll take care of the offense.”
Said Hudson: “I didn’t know if I should turn right or left coming into second.”
Kearns had three hits, including a three-run homer. Griffey added his 34th homer.
Griffey’s shot was the 535th of his career and his 2,300th hit. He moved past Jimmie Foxx for sole possession of 13th place on the all-time home run list.
Reds starter Eric Milton (7-13) gave up seven hits and seven runs, six earned, in 3 1-3 innings. It was the second time in four starts that Milton allowed six earned runs, but it was his shortest outing since lasting only three innings in a 9-2 loss to Pittsburgh on May 28.
Before he was knocked out of the game during the Braves’ six-run fourth inning, Milton set a team record by giving up his 37th homer of the year — a first-inning shot by Chipper Jones.
He hit a 3-2 pitch an estimated 425 feet to center for his 15th homer, giving the Braves a 1-0 lead.
The Braves sent 10 batters to the plate in the fourth, getting five hits and pushing their lead to 7-0.
Chipper Jones led off with a walk, moved to third on Andruw Jones’ double and scored on Julio Franco’s broken-bat single to right. After a sacrifice fly by Francoeur, Johnny Estrada singled and Langerhans drove in Franco with a double.
Hudson’s triple past a diving Griffey in center chased Milton.
“I was going good and I felt good,” Milton said. “The key was walking the leadoff batter in the fourth inning. That was pretty much the game.”
With reliever Todd Coffey on the mound, third baseman Edwin Encarnacion’s two-base throwing error on Rafael Furcal’s grounder allowed Hudson to score the sixth run of the inning.
Kearns’ 13th homer in the fifth cut the lead to 7-3, driving in Aaron Holbert, who had a pinch-hit single, and Felipe Lopez, who doubled.
Griffey added his first career homer at Turner Field in the seventh. He has connected in 41 ballparks. Detroit’s Comerica Park is the only current stadium in which he has not hit a home run.
Notes: Reds RHP Josh Hancock made his first major league appearance of the season, following groin and elbow injuries. Hancock gave up one hit in a scoreless fifth inning. ... Casey extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a second-inning single.
ATLANTA (AP) - Matt Harvey pitched six hitless innings, John Buck homered and the New York Mets held off another Atlanta comeback, beating the Braves 4-3 Tuesday in the first game of a doubleheader.
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