However, after the first three innings, there was reason to believe that this night was going to be different for Hudson. But after surrendering a fourth-inning opposite-field homer to David Ortiz, he found himself tagged with yet another loss against the Red Sox, who evened this three-game series with a 4-0 win over the Braves.
"[Beckett] had his 'A' game, and he's had his 'A' game all year," said Kelly Johnson of the Red Sox hurler who is 10-1 with a 3.14 ERA in 13 starts this season. "It's one of those games where you want to get some early and hold a lead, but we didn't. They put together a big inning, and we stalled out."
Looking to win for the fourth time in five games, the Braves instead found themselves once again dazzled by the live arm of Beckett, who scattered four hits over six scoreless innings. The 27-year-old right-hander would have likely attempted to extend his scoreless dominance if not for a 48-minute rain delay that began before the start of the seventh inning.
"Beckett had us pretty good tonight," said Hudson, who allowed four earned runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings. "I was hoping after he got out of there after the rain delay, that we could get to their bullpen."
While Beckett is 4-0 with a 0.58 ERA in his past five starts against the Braves, Hudson is still looking for his first win against the Red Sox since tossing a shutout against them on Aug. 11, 2003. All of the runs and seven of the nine hits he surrendered in this latest bid came after he had recorded the second out in the fourth inning.
"I just made a couple of bad pitches in that fifth and sixth innings that got them in position to score some runs, and that pretty much was the ballgame," said Hudson, who is 1-4 with a 6.23 ERA in his past seven starts.
Hudson's less-than-impressive numbers of late come with the benefit of having thrown 7 1/3 scoreless innings against the Twins last Thursday. He exited that shutout bid with some stiffness in his right shoulder. When asked if it bothered him in this latest encounter against the Red Sox, he reluctantly replied, "Shoulder is good. It's just a ... It's all right."
Hudson seemed to be all right before Ortiz drilled his two-out homer on a 3-1 sinker in the fourth. Heading into the at-bat, Hudson had faced the minimum and seen just two Red Sox reach base safely. But after Big Papi directed his 12th homer of the season just over the left-field wall, the Braves right-hander was given a glimpse of why he has gone 0-6 with a 9.00 ERA in his past six starts against Boston.
After loading the bases and then escaping the fourth inning without further damage, Hudson committed his biggest sins of the night against Boston's eighth and ninth hitters, which started a two-run fifth. Beckett followed Alex Cora's leadoff triple with an RBI double to the left-center-field gap.
"The big killer for me was the double that Beckett hit," said Hudson, who is 3-9 with a 6.26 ERA in 12 career starts against the Red Sox. "I'm supposed to get pitchers out. But the way the game was going tonight, it seemed like they only needed one run with the way Beckett was throwing the ball."
Since losing each of the three starts he made against them with the Marlins in 2004, Beckett has completely dominated the Braves. In those five starts he's made since then, Beckett's completed 31 innings and surrendered just two earned runs -- both of which came during his victorious six-inning effort against them last year.
"He throws 95, 96 [miles per hour], and he's got two other pitches that are very good," Johnson said in reference to Beckett's changeup and curveball. "He goes in and out, and he has some of the best stuff in the game. It's just a matter of throwing strikes for him, and he did tonight."
Although they had runners on first and second in both the first and third innings, the Braves never seemed to be much of a threat to Beckett, whose only loss in 13 starts this year came last Thursday against the Diamondbacks. The Braves' best scoring threat of the evening came when the first two batters in the eighth inning reached base safely.
But after issuing a walk to pinch-hitter Matt Diaz, Red Sox left-handed reliever Hideki Okajima got Yunel Escobar to hit into a momentum-killing double play. Escobar entered the game in the seventh to play shortstop in place of Edgar Renteria, whose back stiffened up during the rain delay. Braves manager Bobby Cox is hopeful that Renteria will return to the lineup for Wednesday night's rubber match.
"It was too much Beckett, period," Cox said. "The guy pitched a great game and we didn't rough him up at all."