On Sunday, the three-time All-Star and former 20-game winner returns to the mound for the Braves after his recovery from spinal fusion surgery held him out for most of the season's first month. He faces the Pirates, who send righty Kevin Correia to the hill.
Hudson, who went 16-10 with a 3.22 ERA last season, made four Minor League rehab starts and didn't have any health issues. He said the most encouraging sign was the way his rehab went as scheduled.
"Everything went the way we planned it out," Hudson, 36, said. "That doesn't always happen. During my Tommy John rehab, there was a setback. Back surgery is not a common thing. So I really didn't know what to expect. Luckily for me and all of us, everything went according to plan."
If there's an offense that might help Hudson ease back into the big leagues, it would seem to be Pittsburgh. The Pirates haven't scored more than five runs in a game this year and have totaled only 46 runs all season, by far the fewest in baseball.
Their mantra this year has been pitching, and lots of it. Sunday it's Correia, who gets the ball for a club that is 9-2 when the offense scores at least two runs.
In his three starts at Turner Field, Correia has pitched 16 innings with a 2.25 ERA.
Correia was encouraged by his last start -- not just because he threw six innings of two-run ball, but also because the entire team chipped in during a 5-4 win.
"We clutched up at the end of the game, and Hanrahan nailed it down," Correia said. "It was a little glimpse of what we were doing last year. It was a good sign. That's the kind of thing we need to get on a roll again."
The Pirates evened the four-game set at a game apiece with their 4-2 victory Saturday.
Pirates: Barajas fitting in with Bucs' staff
Pittsburgh catcher Rod Barajas is pleased with the chemistry he has already found with a new pitching staff.
"Everybody's been doing a great job, every single time giving us a chance to win the game. That's what's been really impressive," the 36-year-old Barajas said of the pitching staff. "It's easy to be down on ourselves, because we're not swinging the bat. But for me, it's a lot easier when we're pitching well but not hitting. I wouldn't want it the other way around."
Left fielder Alex Presley extended his career-high hitting streak to 12 games with a first-inning single.
Braves: McCann return could come Monday
Brian McCann could return to the Braves' lineup as soon as Monday, following his early exit Friday night because of a strained right intercostal muscle.
"I woke up and knew it was only going to be a couple day thing," McCann said. "I don't think I can re-injure it doing anything. It's just a matter of dealing with a little twinge."
The Braves are 10-0 when leading after the seventh inning.
Hudson has a 2.85 ERA in 11 career starts against Pittsburgh.
The Braves own a 38-19 mark against the Bucs at Turner Field.