Gabbard was called up from Pawtucket on Sunday morning, waited through a storm that delayed his first pitch 2½ hours, and went back down to the minors after striking out a career-high seven batters to lead Boston to a 6-3 victory over the Braves.
"It's not an easy thing for him," manager Terry Francona said. "He stayed ready. It's not an easy thing for anyone to do."
Making his 2007 debut, Gabbard (1-0) held Atlanta hitless through 3 2/3 and retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced. He walked one and allowed six hits, leaving with a 6-0 lead after giving up back-to-back hits to start the sixth inning.
He was optioned back to Triple-A after the game, and declined to comment on his start. Manny Delcarmen was called up so the Red Sox could have an extra reliever heading into this week's series with the Yankees, with Boston holding a double-digit lead over New York and Baltimore.
"If we need some help, we didn't want to get caught short," Francona said.
Brendan Donnelly relieved Gabbard and allowed both inherited runners to score. Atlanta reloaded the bases before Javier Lopez came in and retired Scott Thorman on a 3-6-1 double play to end the inning.
"That ball gets through, different ballgame," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.
Hideki Okajima allowed a pair of hits in the eighth but escaped with his scoreless inning streak at 20 2/3 over 20 outings. Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth in a non-save situation and allowed his first runs in five appearances since May 1.
Tim Hudson (6-2) stumbled in his worst start of the year, giving up four runs in the first inning and another in the second. He allowed six runs in all on eight hits and two walks before leaving in the fifth with two out, two on and one run already in.
"I never really had a chance to get into a rhythm. They got me pretty quick and early," Hudson said. "I just didn't have good stuff."
Hudson, who took a perfect game into the fifth in his last start, lost for the first time in three starts and saw his ERA go from 1.77 -- second in the NL -- to 2.42. It was the second time this season he failed to last at least seven innings.
Andruw Jones struck out five times, including for the final out -- when he represented the tying run against Papelbon. Jones, who had been suffering from tightness in his back, was in the lineup after missing the second game of Saturday's doubleheader.
Kevin Youkilis started a four-run, first-inning rally and made it 6-0 in the fifth with a line drive that curled around the Pesky Pole in right, 302 feet from the plate, and into the first row of the grandstand.
The game started after a 2½-hour delay gave way to puffy white clouds and blue skies, and most of the fans stuck around to see the interleague finale between the Red Sox, their former crosstown rival.
Gabbard, who was 3-1 with a 2.75 ERA in Triple-A this year, went 1-3 for Boston in 2006. But he cruised until Jeff Francoeur blooped a single in front of Drew in right field for the first Atlanta hit of the game.
Francoeur had three hits, including an RBI single in the ninth.
- Diaz made a nice catch in foul territory down the left-field line to retire Alex Cora in the sixth, then Manny Ramirez made one to retire Chipper Jones in the seventh. The line is only 3 feet from the wall in the area, and it's unusual to see even one catch there.
- The Braves recalled INF Martin Prado from Triple-A Richmond and put RHP Anthony Lerew on the 15-day DL because of inflamed nerves in his right forearm.
- Boston optioned Devern Hansack, Saturday night's losing pitcher, to Pawtucket to make room for Gabbard.