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Fifth inning hurts Hudson, Braves

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Posted: June 4, 2007 10:03 p.m.
Updated: June 19, 2007 5:00 a.m.
    ATLANTA — The Florida Marlins scored four runs off Tim Hudson during a strange fifth inning and went on to beat the Atlanta Braves 6-4 Monday night behind Wes Obermueller, starting on three day’s rest for the first time in his career.
    Obermueller (2-3) hung around long enough for the win, giving up eight hits and three runs in five innings. The had gone seven innings in his last start, a no-decision at Milwaukee on Thursday.
    The Marlins juggled their rotation with a doubleheader on Tuesday.
    Florida trailed 3-2 after rookie Yunel Escobar drove an opposite-field shot to right for his first career homer — one of four hits on the night for the youngster who defected from Cuba on a rickety boat.
    But Florida sent eight hitters to the plate against Hudson (6-4) in the fifth, benefiting from a couple of walks, an error by left fielder Willie Harris and a strikeout that didn’t result in an out.
    After Miguel Cabrera put the Marlins ahead 4-3 with a sacrifice fly, Hudson appeared to be out of the inning when Jeremy Hermida swung at a low, inside pitch for strike three with runners at first and second.
    The ball skidded in the dirt, however, getting between the legs of catcher Brian McCann. Hermida hustled to first before McCann could retrieve the wild pitch, loading the bases and extending the inning.
    Aaron Boone took advantage, lining a two-out, two-run single to left that gave the Marlins some breathing room, though it did close out the inning with another odd play.
    Hermida tried to make it to third and Harris had to double-pump on the throw because Escobar, filling in for injured Chipper Jones, wasn’t covering the bag. But shortstop Edgar Renteria headed in that direction, taking the throw on the run and making a no-look, backhanded tag on the runner before he could even slide.
    It wasn’t enough to save the Braves, who dropped four games behind the idle New York Mets in the NL East.
    Kevin Gregg gave up a solo homer to Renteria with two outs in the ninth, but got McCann to fly out for his eighth save in as many chances.
    Florida and Atlanta traded runs through the first three innings, the Marlins tying the game at 2 when right fielder Jeff Francoeur came up with Hanley Ramirez’s single cleanly but bobbled the ball as he attempted to throw toward home.
    Dan Uggla, who had stopped at third, raced home when he saw the ball slip from Francoeur’s right hand and drop behind him.
    Escobar put the Braves back in front. Called up last week when Jones went on the disabled list, the 24-year-old Escobar hit a drive that just cleared the right-field wall. He went 4-for-4 with two singles and a ground-rule double.
    It wasn’t enough for Hudson, who was shaky for the third time in four outings after getting off to a brilliant start this season. He lasted six innings, giving up seven hits and five earned runs.
    Over his last four starts, Hudson is 1-3 with a 6.66 ERA in 24 1-3 innings.
Notes: Hudson matched his second-shortest start of the season. He had one other stint lasting six innings, while his shortest was 4 2-3 at Boston on May 20. ... Hudson’s ERA climbed to 3.09; it was 1.40 at the end of April.

Smoltz still a go for Tuesday’s doubleheader
     The Braves are still counting on John Smoltz to pitch the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Florida Marlins.
    The ailing right-hander threw over the weekend in Chicago and believes he’ll be fit enough to return to the rotation.
    Smoltz left his last start because of discomfort in his right shoulder and an injured right pinkie. He was scheduled to start Sunday against the Cubs, but wound up settling for a stint in the bullpen.
    ‘‘I could have gotten guys out,’’ Smoltz reported after the game. ‘‘So that’s progress.’’
    Manager Bobby Cox hasn’t settled on an alternative plan if Smoltz can’t go. Another fill-in, Buddy Carlyle, already is scheduled to start the first game of the doubleheader.
    ‘‘We’ll piece it together,’’ Cox said.

Manager gone wild
    The Braves players were still chuckling about the meltdown of Double-A manager Phillip Wellman, who gained worldwide fame on the Internet after he covered home plate with dirt, threw a base and did a military crawl behind the mound.
    The big league club wasn’t quite so amused. The Braves handed their Mississippi manager a three-game suspension for his antics last Friday at Chattanooga, Tenn.
    Wellman could be facing additional penalties from the Southern League.
    ‘‘We decided that was the appropriate action to take,’’ Braves general manager John Schuerholz said. ‘‘That’s it. It’s history. Now, we’re moving forward.’’
    And Braves catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said the meltdown caught him by surprise. In a few months under Wellman this season, he’d never seen the manager display such theatrics.
    ‘‘It got a lot of laughs in here,’’ Saltalamacchia said. ‘‘Maybe he went over the line a little bit. Who knows? But he’s going to do whatever it takes for his players.’’
    Braves manager Bobby Cox, who called Wellman one of his favorite people in the Atlanta organization, said he’s seen the clip at least 50 times.
    ‘‘It happened and they’ve got it on video and whatever is on video, whether it’s Paris Hilton or a manager going off, they’ve got it,’’ Cox said. ‘‘That’s the way it is nowadays.’’

Salty at first
    In a sign of things to come, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was taking grounders at first base during batting practice.
    Manager Bobby Cox plans to try the rookie catcher at a new position, which would get him more at-bats and give Scott Thorman an occasional day off.
    Since cutting Craig Wilson, the Braves have lacked a true backup at first base. Chris Woodward made one start for Thorman but is more of a middle infielder.
    Saltalamacchia is off to a solid start with the Braves. He went into Monday’s game hitting .270 with one homer and five RBIs in 14 games.

The other dugout
    Florida will be juggling its pitching staff to work around the doubleheader.
    Right-hander Sergio Mitre will start the first game Tuesday, even though he’s still hampered by a strained right hamstring from his last start. If Mitre is knocked out early and the Marlins are forced to use several relievers, they might make two roster moves before the nightcap.
    The already are planning to activate Rick Vanden Hurk to start Game 2. Another minor league pitcher will be at Turner Field, ready to step in if needed.

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