ST. PETERSBURG -- Tim Hudson had his sinker working on Sunday as he held the Rays scoreless for 7 2/3 innings and the Braves claimed the rubber game of the series, 2-0, at Tropicana Field.
"I felt pretty good in the 'pen with it, and then I was just locating down in the zone, [keeping] them off balance. Cutters, curveballs, not much of a secret, try to make pitches down," said Hudson, who produced 14 ground-ball outs over his 99-pitch outing. "Just trying to keep those guys behind me in the game with some action. Usually we're ok, [we] had a little luck."
Hudson found himself staring down a bases-loaded situation with two outs in the sixth inning. With an electric crowd of 24,759 inside the Trop standing in anticipation -- half cheering for the Braves, the other half for the home team -- Hudson calmly forced Carlos Pena to fly out to center to end the threat.
"I was in a little bit of a pickle there, lost a little bit of aggressiveness," said Hudson, who struck out three and walked two. "That was the ballgame right there. I had to make some pitches. It was an 0-1 curveball. It wasn't the best curveball, but [I] got lucky. He hit it off the end of the bat. You have to be careful with that guy. He just missed it."
Hudson got two outs in the eighth before allowing a single to B.J. Upton, at which point he handed things over to Jonny Venters, who managed to escape the inning after loading the bases by hitting two consecutive batters. Venters got Luke Scott to hit a line drive toward the hole at second, but Pena was running on the play and the ball hit his thigh, giving the Braves the break they needed.
"Got lucky there, but a win's a win," said Venters, who hit his third and fourth batters of the season in just 15 innings. "My arm feels great. I'm just not finishing my pitches, [my] arm [is] dragging a bit. I have to try and make an adjustment."
David Ross gave Hudson all the support he needed in the third with a solo homer to right off Rays starter David Price, who entered the contest with a 6-2 record and a 3.10 ERA.
The Braves gave Hudson another run in the sixth, when Freddie Freeman singled with one out, advanced to second on a passed ball during Dan Uggla's strikeout and scored on a single to center by Jason Heyward.
For Hudson, who entered the contest with a career record of 126-2 (with 24 no-decisions) when given a lead of three or more runs, the two-run cushion suddenly felt monumental, especially against a pitcher like Price.
"He's been great all year, his whole career," Hudson said. "You knew that runs were going to be tough to come by. Ross was able to barrel one on him and give us a nice lead. Any lead against a front-line starter is always nice to have. Honestly, I didn't think we were going to get any more after that. But we were able to scratch another run across, and a two-run lead felt like an eight-run lead."
Craig Kimbrel pitched a perfect ninth for his 13th save. Opposing batters are hitting just .180 (9-for-50) against Kimbrel, who now leads the National League in saves.
The Braves, who have won seven of their past 10 games, improved to 26-16 and maintain a 1 1/2 game lead on the Nationals, who beat the Orioles. The 26-12 mark over the past 38 games for Atlanta is the best in the Majors.
"We've had plenty of times where a situation like the eighth went the wrong way for us, so it's nice to have it be on [the] positive side for us," Hudson said. "The baseball gods were on our side."
Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.