ATLANTA — Tim Hudson said “nothing was great” about his season debut.
Nothing, except the outcome.
Hudson survived five tough innings to win in his return from off-season back surgery and the Atlanta Braves held on in the ninth to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 on Sunday.
Hudson pitched in the majors for the first time since his operation last November to repair a herniated disc.
The right-hander threw 96 pitches while giving up two runs on six hits and two walks. He allowed at least one baserunner in every inning.
Hudson gave a mixed review of his performance.
“My cutter was pretty good, coming in on the lefties. My fastball wasn’t exactly how I wanted it, but it was good enough. … I was able to keep them off-balance good enough and locate just good enough,” he said.
“It wasn’t a great day from me, stuff-wise, but I feel like it was step better from me than my last time out, my last rehab start,” he said.
Hudson’s return was especially important to the Braves’ rotation after Jair Jurrjens’ struggles got him demoted to Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday.
“Everybody was pumped up,” said Martin Prado, who hit his second homer off Brad Lincoln in the seventh.
“He’s one of those guys who goes out there and performs and gives everything he has. He gives us a chance to stay in the game. He kept us in the game. He’s a battle guy. We love to have him back on the team.”
The Pirates, who led 2-0 at one point, stranded 10 runners, including eight against Hudson.
“He gave us a great opportunity to win,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He gave us five innings. He got out there for the first time in a while and probably wasn’t as sharp as he wanted to be. The base hits that he gave up were at least ground balls. His ball was sinking. It was nice to see.”
Craig Kimbrel gave up one run in the ninth before earning his eighth save.
Michael Bourn had three hits and a walk for the Braves.
Kevin Correia (1-1) gave up two earned runs on four hits and five walks in 4⅓ innings. He walked three batters in the fifth, including a bases-loaded pass to Dan Uggla that snapped a 2-all tie.