(Sports Network) - If the Atlanta Braves want to hold onto first place in the National League East, they must find a way to consistently beat teams like the Washington Nationals. Lucky for them, that is Tim Hudson's specialty.
Hudson will try to improve on his stellar career record versus Washington this evening and help Atlanta even a three-game series at Nationals Park.
The 35-year-old All-Star threw seven scoreless innings to beat the Nationals the last time he faced them on June 28, upping his career mark against the franchise to 9-1 with an outstanding 1.51 earned run average in 15 starts. He has won eight straight decisions against them since his lone loss on June 5, 2006.
Hudson, though, has been a bit inconsistent himself for the Braves. He has alternated wins and losses over his last eight starts, giving up just one run in the four victories -- including none in the last three -- while yielding 15 runs in the four losses.
The right-hander is coming off a victory over the Padres in which he threw seven scoreless innings on Thursday, improving to 10-5 with a 2.47 ERA on the season.
Hudson will try to get the Braves back on track after they lost last night's opener to Washington, 3-0, even though the Nationals were forced to scratch phenom Stephen Strasburg late due to right shoulder inflammation that leaves the young hurler day-to-day.
Miguel Batista stepped up in an emergency role and threw five scoreless innings, with three Washington relievers combining to hold Atlanta to just two hits the rest of the way. Matt Capps pitched a perfect ninth to earn his 25th save.
"Miguel has been a staff saver for us," Nationals manager Jim Riggleman said. "And [Tuesday] he was more than that. He was outstanding."
Ian Desmond had two hits and drove in two runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game slide and won for the third time in 10 games. They have won four of seven overall versus the Braves this year, including three of four at home.
Eric Hinske had two of Atlanta's five hits and Tommy Hanson allowed three runs -- just one earned -- over six innings to take the loss, his team's third in four games to start a nine-game road trip.
"We didn't have many chances," said Braves manager Bobby Cox, whose club will try to avoid dropping three in a row since getting swept by the Chicago White Sox from June 22-24.
The Braves, who have seen their lead over the second-place Philadelphia Phillies fall to 3 1/2 games, were without Nate McLouth after sending the struggling center fielder to Triple-A Gwinnett before the game. McLouth had just six hits in his last 63 at-bats and is hitting .168 with three homers and 14 RBI on the year.
The Nationals will turn tonight to Livan Hernandez, who snapped a five-start winless drought (0-2) with a victory in Cincinnati on Thursday.
The 35-year-old righty picked up his first win since June 21 after allowing a run on seven hits in a complete-game effort, his second of the season and 49th of his career. He didn't walk a batter and struck out five.
Hernandez improved to 7-6 with a 3.12 ERA this year and is 6-15 with a 5.16 ERA in his career versus the Braves, whom he beat on May 4 after giving up just two runs -- one earned -- over 5 1/3 frames.