The Associated Press
For the first four innings, Tim Hudson wondered if Jeff Samardzija would be too tough to beat.
Luckily for Hudson, the hard-throwing Samardzija began having control problems, and the Atlanta Braves took advantage of the situation.
“You know you’re not going to get much against a pitcher like Samardzija,” Hudson said. “He was throwing some cheese in there.”
Hudson pitched six-plus strong innings and added an RBI and Ramiro Pena hit a two-run single to help the Braves beat the Chicago Cubs 5-1 on Sunday.
The three-game sweep ended a 5-1 homestand for Atlanta, which got a solo homer from Dan Uggla in the eighth off Hisanori Takahashi.
Chicago ended a six-game road trip with four losses as it heads to Wrigley Field for the home opener against Milwaukee on Monday.
Hudson (1-0) allowed three hits, one run and two walks in 6 2-3 innings. He struck out seven while improving to 3-1 in seven career starts against the Cubs with a 3.12 ERA.
“That’s Hudson,” Chicago manager Dale Sveum said. “He changes speeds. He’s got a slider, cutter, curveball, split. His fastball is really deceiving sneaky and obviously he can get groundballs. That’s Hudson.”
Samardzija (1-1) set a career high with 13 strikeouts, but gave up four hits, four runs and four walks in 5 2-3 innings.
“He’s got good stuff and he’s a great athlete and one heck of a competitor,” Uggla said after going 0 for 3 against Samardzija with two strikeouts.
“Everybody knows that. He kept us off balance. You’ve got to respect his 97 (mph fastball). We were able to scratch a couple (of runs) across, and Huddy was able to hold them right there.”
The Braves, without injured starters Freddie Freeman and Andrelton Simmons, had struck out 10 times by the end of the fourth, but they got an offensive lift for the second straight game from Ramiro Pena, a reserve shortstop batting in the No. 8 spot.
In the fifth, Samardzija retired the first two batters before Pena doubled and Hudson walked. With B.J. Upton batting, a wild pitch advanced both runners. Samardzija then walked Upton on a wild pitch that scored Pena and made it 1-1.
In the sixth, Justin Upton whiffed for the 13th strikeout, but Samardzija loaded the bases with two outs on Uggla’s fielder’s choice and Juan Francisco’s single before he hit Chris Johnson with a pitch.
Samardzija was unhappy with home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez, running toward the plate to argue that the ball had missed Johnson.
“I don’t know,” Samardzija said. “I’ll have to go back and check the replay. We were just trying to go up and in, and I guess it grazed him.”
Pena, the next batter, singled into right field to drive in two runs to make it 3-1 and chase Samardzija. Hudson followed with an RBI single off reliever Michael Bowden to give the Braves a 4-1 lead.
“Our bench is so deep that you can run Pena in there and not lose a beat,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “And put Chris Johnson at first base and still put a pretty good team on the field. That’s a sign of a good baseball team. Well-rounded.”
Chicago took a 1-0 lead in the first when David DeJesus doubled off the right-field wall, moved to third on Starlin Castro’s flyout and scored on Anthony Rizzo’s RBI groundout.
Luis Avilan, who replaced Hudson with runners on first and second in the seventh, ended the threat by retiring pinch-hitter Scott Hairston on a forceout.
Avilan stranded two runners in the eighth when Nate Schierholtz grounded out.
Uggla’s homer, his second, made it 5-1. Braves reliever Jordan Walden struck out the side in the ninth.