BOSTON - A healthy Wade Miller gave Boston's battered rotation a big boost.
Miller retired his first eight batters and allowed three hits in 6 1-3 innings Friday night in a 4-3 win over the Atlanta Braves after the Red Sox struggled on their six-game West Coast trip.
He made just his third start of the season after recovering from a frayed rotator cuff in his right shoulder that kept him on the disabled list for the last three months of the 2004 season with Houston. He signed with Boston as a free agent.
Another fine pitcher who switched leagues in the offseason continued to struggle at Fenway Park. Atlanta starter Tim Hudson, obtained in a trade with Oakland, gave up four runs and eight hits, including homers by Jason Varitek and Bill Mueller, in six innings.
That raised Hudson's career ERA in Boston to 7.92. He allowed 12 earned runs in seven innings at Fenway last year.
Miller (1-0) struggled against Atlanta when he was in the National League, going 1-3 with a 6.66 ERA in five career starts. But he was sharp Friday, sending the Braves to their fourth straight loss. He struck out five, walked two and left after Johnny Estrada's second hit of the game, a one-out double in the seventh.
Mike Timlin pitched 1 2-3 hitless innings and Keith Foulke worked the ninth for his 11th save in 13 chances. He gave up a double to Chipper Jones, a run-scoring triple to Andruw Jones and an RBI single to Estrada, cutting it to 4-3. But Foulke then got Julio Franco to ground into a game-ending double play.
The Red Sox needed a strong pitching performance after going 2-4 on their trip to Seattle and Oakland. Their starters were 0-3 with a 9.30 ERA in those games.
And Curt Schilling remains on the disabled list, although team physician Dr. Thomas Gill said Friday he was "very encouraged" by the right-hander's recovery from a bone bruise on his right ankle. But Gill gave no timetable for Schilling's return.
The Red Sox led 1-0 after their first two batters. Johnny Damon tripled and scored on Edgar Renteria's groundout against Hudson (4-3).
They made it 4-0 in the second on Varitek's ninth homer of the season, a solo shot, and Mueller's first homer, a two-run liner off the right-field foul pole after a single by Kevin Millar.
Boston threatened again in the fourth and sixth, but Renteria left the bases loaded both times on groundouts.
The Braves finally broke through in the fifth when Estrada got their first hit, a leadoff single. After Franco flied out, Estrada went to third on Brian Jordan's double and scored on Raul Mondesi's groundout.
Notes: Varitek has homered on May 20 for five straight seasons. He hit three homers on May 20, 2001, against Kansas City. He is 11-for-26 with seven homers and 13 RBIs on that date during those five years.... Atlanta's Marcus Giles was ejected after taking a called third strike to end the eighth inning.