The Los Angeles Angels had scored only one run over the last 30 innings on their 1-6 road trip. Once they got back home, they started knocking around former Oakland nemesis Tim Hudson.
Ervin Santana pitched a four-hitter for his sixth career shutout and the Angels welcomed Hudson back to the Big A for the first time in almost seven years with a six-run third inning that carried them to a 9-0 rout of the Atlanta Braves on Friday night.
"We needed it. We've been struggling, but tonight we put everything together," Santana said. "We just have to keep doing our job and stay positive. When the run support is like that, you have to feel comfortable."
In the first interleague game of the season for both teams, Santana (2-4) went the distance for the 10th time in 180 career starts. He struck out seven, and walked none for the first time in 10 starts this season.
"They were swinging at everything," Santana said. "So I just said to myself, 'Just keep the ball down and throw strikes.' To me, the difference was concentration. I was completely calm. I just saw the glove and tried to put it right there."
Only four players on the Braves' roster had faced Santana before — Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Eric Hinske and Alex Gonzalez, who were a combined 2 for 13 — including two singles by Hinske.
"Let's not take any credit away from Santana. He was pretty good. In fact, he was better than good — real good," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We had a couple of guys who had seen him before, and we had enough reports and film. So that shouldn't have been a problem."
Santana got offensive help from Mark Trumbo with a three-run homer and Alberto Callaspo with three RBIs. The run total matched the Angels' entire output in their previous five games combined. In four of Santana's previous six starts, his teammates didn't score while he was in the game.
"It's awesome," Trumbo said. "The starting pitchers have been doing more than their share of the job, and we need to start picking it up and taking a little of the pressure off their backs."
Hudson (4-4) threw 77 pitches over 3 2-3 innings, allowing eight runs, seven hits and three walks. The 13-year veteran, facing the Angels for the first time since an 8-4 interleague loss in Atlanta on June 8, 2005, also hit three batters — one more than he plunked in 62 1-3 innings during his nine previous starts this season.
It was the third time in 354 starts that the three-time All-Star hit three batters in a game. He also did it April 21, 2004, at Seattle in a 7-4 victory with Oakland, and June 11 of that season in a 6-1 interleague win against Pittsburgh.
Hudson made his first start at Angel Stadium since June 22, 2004, with the Athletics, when he lost 6-1. He came in 13-6 with a 3.49 ERA in 24 career starts against the Angels.
"It was an uphill battle from the start. I wasn't making pitches and it just wasn't a good night," Hudson said. "I guess I'm just not very good in the American League anymore, apparently."
Peter Bourjos, the Angels' No. 9 hitter, triggered the team's most productive inning of the season with a leadoff double that ended an 0-for-23 drought. Bobby Abreu had an RBI double, Torii Hunter singled home another run and Abreu scored on Hank Conger's groundout. Trumbo capped the rally with his seventh homer, which landed behind the double-decker bullpen in left field.
"The plan was to get the ball up, because he's obviously got a really good sinker," Trumbo said. "But more than anything, it was about being determined. It's time for us to go out there and play like we're capable of. And if we're going down, we're going down swinging. There's no more tentative baseball. We've had flashes of the way we can play, so we're going to come out and play hard and see what happens."
Hudson opened the fourth by hitting his first two batters — Bourjos on an 0-1 pitch and Maicer Izturis on a full count. Both advanced on Erick Aybar's bunt, and Fredi Gonzalez went to the mound with assistant trainer Jim Lovell to check on Hudson, whose back had stiffened up. The right-hander then walked Abreu and struck out Hunter before Callaspo chased him with a two-run single that made it 8-0.
"I've never been one to make excuses and I'm not going to make excuses now," Hudson said. "I don't think it's something I can't deal with. I felt better (on the mound) than I did when I was backing up third base. But it definitely wasn't one of my better nights, that's for sure."
Callaspo came up with the bases loaded again in the sixth against Cristhian Martinez and drove in the Angels' final run with a groundout.
NOTES: With the Braves able to use a DH in an American League ballpark, Jones filled that role and was 0 for 3 without hitting a ball out of the infield. LF Martin Prado started at 3B in Jones' place for the sixth time this season. ... Scot Shields, the rubber-armed setup man for the Angels' bullpen and a member of the 2002 World Series championship club, threw out a ceremonial first pitch. He announced his retirement on March 18 at age 35 after 10 big league seasons, all with the Angels. A knee injury limited him to 63 appearances over the last two seasons.