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Heyward sparks Braves as Hudson shuts down Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- No need to wait for the ninth inning to win this one. With Tim Hudson giving up only three singles and Jason Heyward rattling PNC Park with line drives, the Atlanta Braves put the Pittsburgh Pirates away early and easily.

Heyward homered and drove in three runs to support Hudson's eight dominant innings and the Braves coasted for a change, beating the Pirates 7-0 on Friday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

The Braves had won three consecutive games in their final at-bat, including a 10-9 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday in which they scored seven runs during the best ninth-inning comeback in franchise history. They have won nine of 11 overall.

"There's nothing better than winning like we did [Thursday], then winning again," said manager Bobby Cox, who celebrated his 69th birthday. "It's kind of inspiring to win a game like we did [against Cincinnati]. It gets you on rolls."

Hudson (5-1) was already on one as he won his fourth in a row this month, allowing a pair of singles by Bobby Crosby and another by Garrett Jones. Hudson hasn't permitted more than one run in any victory during the streak. The right-hander also hasn't surrendered an earned run in his last 22 innings in Pittsburgh.

"My sinker feels really good, and for me that's the key," Hudson said. "Stay down in the zone with it, [get] good action, stay on top of it, [with] good downward tilt. It's a fun day when I'm able to go out and do that."

For the Braves, a fun day beat another stressful one.

Hudson was trying for his 12th career shutout and his first since May 2, 2008, against Cincinnati, or about four months before he had Tommy John elbow reconstructive surgery. Cox pulled him after he threw 109 pitches.

"I didn't think there was any reason to keep him going with that kind of lead," Cox said. "If he'd had to, he could have gone another one easy. But I thought it was best what we did."

Asked about Hudson's sinker, the Pirates' Ryan Church said, "He's got that extra, late movement and that makes it frustrating. He's a ground-ball pitcher and it looks like he's got his arm strength back from surgery."

Eric O'Flaherty finished up the combined four-hitter -- Atlanta's first shutout this season -- as the Pirates were shut out for the third time in five home games and the sixth time overall.

Long before that, Martin Prado doubled and scored on Chipper Jones' single in the first and, the way Hudson was pitching, the Braves didn't need much more offense than that. Heyward gave it to them anyway.

Heyward walked in the first and then lined a Ross Ohlendorf pitch into the right-field seats following Prado's leadoff walk to make it 3-0 in the third. Heyward missed a second homer by a couple feet, lining another drive high off the right-field wall to drive in a run and finish off a three-run fourth inning that chased Ohlendorf (0-2).

Heyward went 3-for-4 in his Pittsburgh debut, with center fielder Andrew McCutchen taking away a possible fourth hit by making a sliding catch of a sinking line drive in the sixth.

"He [Heyward] is a very athletic player with a lot of strength and, obviously, a lot of pop," Pirates manager John Russell said.

Ohlendorf pitched 3 2/3 innings in his third start since spending a month on the disabled list with back spasms, giving up six runs and seven hits. He has lasted longer than five innings once in four starts.

Game notes
Brian McCann added his fifth homer, a solo shot in the seventh. ... The Pirates are hitting .233 this month. ... Saturday night's game won't be televised in Atlanta, the only Braves game all season that won't be shown. It also won't be on TV in Pittsburgh. The Fox network's weekly Saturday telecast is in prime time, and other games being played then cannot be televised. ... Outfielder Nate McLouth played in Pittsburgh for the first time since being traded to Atlanta nearly a year ago. Some Pirates fans wore McLouth jerseys. ... The Braves are 14-6 since losing nine in a row.