No matter what happens in their final series of the first half, the Atlanta Braves will head into the All-Star break atop the NL East.
That lead could have been bigger had they done a better job supporting Tim Hudson .
The right-hander tries to build on his first victory in two months Thursday night in the first of four against the visiting Cincinnati Reds .
Although Braves starters had a 4.21 ERA on a 3-3 trip that ended with Wednesday's 6-2 loss to Miami, that group's 3.52 ERA is a major reason why the team owns baseball's largest divisional lead.
Atlanta (52-39) has held at least a share of the top spot in the East since April 5.
Hudson (5-7, 4.03 ERA) has the worst ERA among Braves starters, but he's posted a 2.28 ERA in his last seven outings with opponents batting .207. He has a team-worst 3.42 run-support average while going 1-3 during that stretch, even after Atlanta set season highs for runs and hits (19) in Saturday's 13-4 victory at Philadelphia.
Hudson, working on six days' rest due to a sore neck, was 0-6 in his previous 10 starts.
"It makes my job a lot easier when we're able to put up some crooked runs," he told the Braves' official website after yielding one run and walking none in seven innings.
Hudson, 3-0 with a 2.68 ERA in eight home starts, gets his first look at the Reds (51-40) since their last game in Atlanta, a 6-2 Braves victory May 15, 2012.
Atlanta took two of three from the Reds from May 6-8.
The Reds will now try to hand the Braves a season high-tying third straight home defeat after ending their three-game skid with Wednesday's 6-2 victory at Milwaukee. Cincinnati scored four runs during its slide.
"It would have been a graveyard in here if we didn't pull this one out," starter Mike Leake said.
The Reds continue their trip with Mat Latos (8-2, 3.18) on the mound. The right-hander permitted four runs and a season high-tying four walks but struck out 11 over six innings in Saturday's 13-4 victory over Seattle.
"The offense picked me up," said Latos, who received four runs of support in his previous three starts. "Thirteen runs is always good, especially when I put us in a 2-0 hole."
Latos, 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts in Atlanta, should be especially careful with Chris Johnson , who's batting .409 with nine RBIs during an 11-game hitting streak. Johnson, 7 for 15 with a homer and three doubles off Latos, was hitless in five at-bats against the Reds in May.
Teammate Andrelton Simmons went 8 for 13 with two homers and four RBIs.
Chris Heisey , who was sidelined for that series with a hamstring injury, is questionable for Cincinnati after getting hit on the left arm by a pitch Tuesday and missing Wednesday's game. Heisey is 9 for 11 in five career games in Atlanta.
Shin-Soo Choo, who has hit safely in a team-best eight straight, will play his first game there. The center fielder hit two homers, including a walkoff shot, in a 5-4 victory May 7.
|June 29, 2013||Johnny Cueto||15-Day DL||Strained right lat|
|June 28, 2013||Johnny Cueto||Day-to-Day||Left game - tight right lat|
|June 14, 2013||Jonathan Broxton||15-Day DL||Right elbow flexor mass strain|
|June 01, 2013||Johnny Cueto||15-Day DL||Strained right shoulder|
|June 01, 2013||Johnny Cueto||15-Day DL||Strained right shoulder|
|May 21, 2013||Sean Marshall||15-Day DL||Sprained left shoulder|
|July 04, 2013||Jordan Schafer||15-Day DL||Right ankle contusion|
|July 02, 2013||B.J. Upton||Day-to-Day||Left game - left forearm spasms|
|June 18, 2013||Evan Gattis||15-Day DL||Oblique strain|
|June 17, 2013||Ramiro Pena||15-Day DL||Right shoulder impingement|
|May 29, 2013||Kris Medlen||Day-to-Day||Left game - left upper calf contusion|
|May 18, 2013||Eric O'Flaherty||15-Day DL||Left elbow surgery - out for season|
ATLANTA (AP) -- Braves fans set a record by voting Freddie Freeman to the All-Star game.
The big first baseman found a way to say thanks.
Freeman celebrated his newly won All-Star berth by driving in four runs with three hits and Atlanta beat Mat Latos and the Cincinnati Reds 6-5 on Thursday night.
Freeman held off Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig to win the fan voting for the final spot on NL All-Star roster. He received more than 19 million votes, a record. The support from the fans continued into the game as he received a long ovation before his first at-bat.
"I wasn't expecting it," Freeman said, adding the ovation was "pretty cool."
After backing out of the batter's box, Freeman approached the plate and with fans still chanting "Freddie! Freddie!" he hit a two-run double to center field on his first pitch to drive in Andrelton Simmons and Justin Upton .
"A load off the shoulders," Freeman said. "They voted for you. You want to go out and deliver for them."
The first baseman drove in two runs with a first-inning double and added run-scoring singles in the second and fourth innings.
Reds manager Dusty Baker said it was Freeman's day.
"He's riding high," Baker said. "The All-Star selection, he has everything going for him right now. It's probably a pleasure and a joy to be Freddie Freeman right now."
Justin Upton also had three hits to help Tim Hudson (6-7) earn his second straight win. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 25th save.
Braves right fielder Jason Heyward left the game in the second inning with a strained right hamstring and said he won't play on Friday.
Latos (8-3) lasted only four innings in his shortest start of the season. He allowed six runs on nine hits and two walks. The six earned runs allowed matched his season high.
"He got a few balls in the heart of the plate," Baker said. "That's probably the worst outing Matt's had since he's been here."
Latos agreed he was hurt by "laying the ball right down the middle" and said the Braves' lineup is imposing.
"That lineup's stacked, one through eight," Latos said. "It's tough not to give up runs and give up hard-hit balls whenever you're throwing the ball down the middle. I just couldn't make the adjustment."
Devin Mesoraco led off the Cincinnati ninth with a single. Kimbrel struck out pinch-hitter Xavier Paul and Shin-Soo Choo, who had two hits and scored three times. Kimbrel ended the game on Zack Cozart 's fly ball to left field.
Simmons walked to lead off the fourth and scored on Reed Johnson 's triple to the left-field corner. Upton doubled, driving in Johnson, and scored on Freeman's single for a 6-3 lead.
Hudson gave up four runs, three earned, on eight hits in seven innings. His two straight wins came after six consecutive losing decisions.
Brandon Phillips had two hits and drove in two runs for Cincinnati.
Choo led off the game with a single. Hudson issued a one-out walk to Joey Votto before giving up run-scoring singles to Phillips and Jay Bruce .
Choo doubled in the third inning and scored on Votto's sacrifice fly. He walked in the fifth and scored on Votto's infield hit and third baseman Chris Johnson 's throwing error.
The Reds cut Atlanta's lead to 6-5 with a run off Jordan Walden in the eighth. Cozart reached on Simmons' throwing error and scored on Phillips' double.
With runners on first and second, Walden struck out Todd Frazier and ended the eighth on Chris Heisey 's fly.
Heyward strained his right hamstring on a slide at third base in the second inning.
Heyward, who reached on a throwing error by Votto, advanced to third on Justin Upton 's infield hit. Heyward was running from second base when he appeared to make a last-second decision to slide into third. He said he first felt tightness in the hamstring "about a step and a half" before the slide.
Safe on the play, Heyward remained on the ground at third base before finally rising to his feet and walking off the field, accompanied by manager Fredi Gonzalez.
"No pop. Just pain," Heyward said, adding the hamstring was "sore right now, tight" after having ice on the leg.
NOTES: The Reds placed C Ryan Hanigan on the 15-day DL with a sprained left wrist and recalled C Corky Miller from Triple-A Louisville. ... Braves C-OF Evan Gattis , recovering from a right oblique strain, will begin an injury rehab assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday. ... Former Braves two-time MVP Dale Murphy , honored in a pregame ceremony, wore his 1980s-era light blue Braves jersey as he threw out the first pitch to Freeman. ... Atlanta's Kris Medlen (6-8) will face Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo (5-6) in a matchup of right-handers with losing records on Friday night.