Not even the much-anticipated debut of Zack Greinke was enough to turn things around for the slumping Milwaukee Brewers.
Tim Hudson pitched a one-hitter, facing only two batters above the minimum, and the Atlanta Braves ruined Greinke's first game for the Brewers, rocking the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner in a 8-0 victory Wednesday night to complete a doubleheader sweep.
The Braves romped in the opener, too, winning 8-3. Nate McLouth reached in all eight of his plate appearances over the two games, going 5 for 5 with three walks, and he broke open the nightcap with a two-run homer.
Greinke (0-1) was acquired from Kansas City in an offseason trade to bolster the Brewers' chances in the NL Central. But he broke a rib playing pickup basketball and began the season on the disabled list, setting the tone for a disappointing start to a season in which Milwaukee has been projected as a contender.
After three rehab starts in the minors, Greinke finally got a chance to pitch for the Brewers. While he showed good life on his pitches, striking out six, he also struggled with his consistency and got little help from his defense. The Brewers committed two errors in the first inning, leading to an unearned run.
Greinke gave up four more runs that were earned, including McLouth's homer in a three-run fourth that broke the game open. In all, the right-hander surrendered five hits and walked one before he was lifted after four innings and 86 pitches.
"I guess the end result's bad. For the most part, I pitched decent," Greinke said. "The way Hudson was pitching it wouldn't matter anyway."
Manager Ron Roenicke saw glimpses of Greinke's potential and expects him to keep improving as he gets more starts, especially with his off-speed pitches.
"I didn't expect him to come out and throw up all zeros. I didn't," Roenicke said. "It's nice to have him back. He's going to compete. But I don't think it's fair to say that he's going to go out (right away) and be the same guy that we've seen for the last few years."
Hudson (4-2) was dominant, nearly matching Francisco Liriano's no-hitter the previous evening for Minnesota. The right-hander retired his first nine hitters before Rickie Weeks led off the fourth with a double. He was the only Brewers player to reach base, also drawing a two-out walk in the ninth.
Only four of Hudson's outs came on fly balls, his sinker working to perfection. He posted his 12th career shutout and first complete-game win since May 2, 2008, against Cincinnati.
"I'm never trying to throw a no-hitter," he said. "But that was about as close as I feel like I can get."
McLouth was seemingly in the middle of everything on offense. One of his hits was initially ruled an error, but even that went his way when the official scorer changed the call between games.
"With a doubleheader, it can kind of go one of two ways. You can have a terrible day or a great day," McLouth said. "It was a great day."
Milwaukee has lost a season-high five in a row and slipped to four games below .500 (13-17), its lowest point since starting the year 0-4. The Braves stretched their winning streak to four, moving two games above .500 (17-15) for the first time since April 4.
The Brewers failed to cover first on a routine sacrifice attempt in Game 1, and the defense committed three errors in the second game to cap a thoroughly miserable day.
"I'm not in a panic mode or anything," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "I still feel we've got a good team here."
Alex Gonzalez reached in the first on a grounder that was fumbled away by first baseman Prince Fielder. Jason Heyward was awarded first on catcher's interference, his bat striking Wil Nieves' glove on the swing for the second straight Milwaukee error. Dan Uggla singled to left to drive in Gonzalez.
The Braves manufactured another run in the second — McLouth walked, Hudson bunted him to second and Martin Prado delivered a two-out hit. Prado had three RBIs in Game 1.
Greinke breezed through a perfect third before the Braves finished him off in the fourth. David Ross and Eric Hinske started it with back-to-back doubles, then McLouth drove a two-run shot into the right-field seats to make it 5-0.
One day after rain wiped out the second game of the series, the teams played two in unseasonably cool conditions for early May in Atlanta. The temperature dipped into the low 50s for the nightcap and felt even colder with a strong breeze blowing.
Tommy Hanson (4-3) shook off a sore back in Game 1, limiting Milwaukee to three hits over six innings for his third straight win. His only big stumble came in the fourth when Fielder homered. Otherwise, the big right-hander made it look easy.
Prado had three hits and scored twice. Chipper Jones and Brian McCann had two RBIs apiece for the Braves, then sat out the second game. The Braves did just fine without them.
Marco Estrada (1-1) took the loss for Milwaukee in the opener, giving up seven runs in 5 1-3 innings. He'll be shipped to the bullpen now that Greinke is back in the rotation.
"We didn't play good baseball," Roenicke said. "We're not doing anything very well."
NOTES: The Braves are donating $100,000 to the Salvation Army and encouraging fans to help with relief efforts after last week's deadly Southern storms. The team has set up collection bins at Turner Field and each of its minor league parks where fans can drop off items such as toiletries, baby products, cleaning supplies and nonperishable food. ... OF Brandon Boggs was outrighted to Triple-A Nashville to make room for Greinke. ... The Braves must decide if Hanson or Hudson will go Sunday on three days' rest or call up someone from the minors to make a spot start at Philadelphia. ... The sparse crowd was listed at 15,543, but never appeared to climb as high as 10,000 during either game.