SAN FRANCISCO – Tim Hudson understood why he had to come out with the ninth inning so close to over, a single out the only thing keeping him from a complete game.
Still, that didn't make it any easier to actually leave.
Hudson outdueled Tim Lincecum and nearly pitched his first complete game this year, leadoff man Martin Prado drove in Atlanta's first three runs and the Braves beat the San Francisco Giants 5-2 on Saturday to secure just their third series win of the season.
"It's pretty disappointing. Obviously to go out and get two outs in the ninth, you want to finish it," Hudson said. "My pitch count got up there and I was laboring a little bit. But I'm not a guy who takes a lot of pride in complete games."
Hudson (3-2) followed up Tommy Hanson's strong outing a night earlier with his own impressive performance in a matchup of two undersized, hard-throwing righties who share a first name.
Hudson allowed nine hits, struck out four and didn't walk a batter in an efficient, 112-pitch outing. Manager Fredi Gonzalez left Hudson in to start the ninth but he gave up Pat Burrell's leadoff double and a sacrifice fly to Miguel Tejada.
Lincecum (2-2) was tagged for five runs and six hits in 6 1-3 innings after he carried a no-hit bid into the eighth inning Monday at Colorado. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner also walked a career-high six and struck out six, while allowing his most earned runs since also giving up five last Aug. 15 during a career-worst, five-start losing streak.
Brian McCann added a two-run single in the seventh off Javier Lopez to end an 0-for-10 drought and further back Hudson. This outing was reminiscent of the pitcher's dominant days across San Francisco Bay as a member of Oakland's "Big Three" — with Hudson still hitting 91 mph on the radar gun even at the end.
"It's a lot of fun to come out and pitch in front of a packed crowd, against the defending champs and one of the best pitchers going right now," Hudson said. "It'll be nice to come in tomorrow and go for the sweep."
Atlanta's No. 3 starter had made it only six innings in his previous two outings. This time, he worked ahead and calmly got out of trouble when the Giants created chances.
While his only clean innings came in the first and sixth, he was helped by two double plays. Hudson had only thrown 72 pitches through six, 23 fewer than Lincecum.
"He's probably a little mad at me I took him out. We gave him an opportunity," Gonzalez said. "Huddy was outstanding."
Craig Kimbrel retired pinch-hitter Buster Posey on a flyball to center for the final out for his sixth save in seven chances and second in as many games.
The reigning World Series champion Giants lost their third in a row and had their streak of four straight winning series snapped. Lincecum was handed only his third loss in nine career starts against Atlanta.
"You can't accept pretty good results when you walk six guys," Lincecum said. "It's almost like a guy's on every inning. Obviously you're not helping yourself or your team with a back-against-the-wall kind of situation. Today was one of those situations where I did it to myself."
Lincecum's day began with back-to-back walks to Prado and No. 2 hitter Jason Heyward and still escaped the first facing the minimum. Prado was caught stealing, then Freddie Freeman grounded into a double play after Heyward reached.
Lincecum received a mound visit from pitching coach Dave Righetti after a one-out single to Nate McLouth and a walk to Hudson in the third. Prado then singled in Atlanta's first run to tie the game. McLouth scored that run and then again on Prado's go-ahead single in the fifth. Prado reached on a fielder's choice in the seventh for another RBI.
Gonzalez rested Chipper Jones as planned, but Jones also was nursing a sore right knee that wasn't considered serious. McCann is likely to sit out Sunday's series finale, with Jones back in the lineup for his 39th birthday. Gonzalez doesn't want both stars on the bench the same days if possible.Cody Ross had his first hit and drove in his first run of the season after being activated from the disabled list earlier in the week.
Burrell hit a one-out double in the second and easily beat a close play at the plate to score on Ross' ensuing single. After that inning, Hudson allowed only three more baserunners to reach second.
Giants Sunday starter Jonathan Sanchez was fighting a flu bug that required him to receive an IV for dehydration, but manager Bruce Bochy expected the left-hander to make his start.
NOTES: Hudson improved to 2-2 in six regular-season starts at AT&T Park. ... Lincecum singled leading off the fifth for his first hit of the year after an 0-for-10 start. ... Freeman singled in the ninth to reach base safely for the 15th time in 16 games. ... Neither injured Giants CF Andres Torres (strained left Achilles' tendon) nor RHP reliever Santiago Casilla (inflamed pitching elbow) will make the team's upcoming 10-game East Coast road trip. Instead, they will travel to Arizona to rehabilitate and perhaps get into some extended spring training games. ... San Francisco drew 42,395 fans for its eighth sellout in as many home games this year.