A lack of production at the plate continues to plague the Atlanta Braves during their current rough stretch. However, even a little support could be enough to help Tim Hudson continue his recent dominance over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Hudson tries to win his fourth straight start against the Pirates and help the NL East-leading Braves avoid a third consecutive loss Tuesday night at PNC Park.Since winning five in a row, Atlanta (79-59) has scored 12 runs while losing four of five -- half of which came in a 7-6, 10-inning defeat at Florida on Sunday. The Braves, who opened this three-game series with a 3-1 loss Monday, hold a slim lead over Philadelphia in the East.Atlanta has led the division since May 31."We're not losing confidence at all," said outfielder Matt Diaz, who had two of the Braves' eight hits Monday. "We know we control our fate. That's the beauty of being the team that the other team's chasing -- whether it's one game or 10 games."Omar Infante, who batted .372 in July and August, is 5 for 22 in his last four games after going 0 for 4 on Monday. He is 2 for 14 against Pittsburgh this season.Derrek Lee had two hits in the series opener but is batting .245 with no homers and seven RBIs in 16 games since the Braves acquired him from the Cubs last month.Just a few runs might be all the Braves need to help back Hudson (15-6, 2.30 ERA), who has not surrendered an earned run in 22 straight innings against the Pirates (46-91).Hudson, 5-3 with a 2.45 ERA in nine starts versus Pittsburgh, has given up an unearned run and 10 hits while winning his last three outings against the Pirates. The right-hander allowed three hits in eight innings of a 7-0 win at Pittsburgh on May 21.After going 5-0 with a 0.82 ERA during a six-start stretch, Hudson is 1-1 with a 3.60 ERA in his last three outings. He gave up three runs in seven innings of a 4-2 loss to the Mets on Thursday.Atlanta could break out against Pittsburgh's James McDonald (2-5, 5.62), who has a 7.71 ERA while losing three straight starts.Struggling with mechanical issues, the right-hander gave up three runs and struck out six in five innings of a 5-3 loss at Chicago on Wednesday."You've got to compete and give it your all when you don't feel good," McDonald told the Pirates' official website. "That's when you know you're a real pitcher."McDonald is making his first start versus Atlanta after not allowing a hit and striking out five in four scoreless innings against the Braves in 2009 while with the Dodgers.Rookie Neil Walker is 5 for 12 in four games against the Braves after hitting a two-run homer Monday. The second baseman is batting .312 this season and .404 with five home runs and 16 RBIs during a 13-game hitting streak.