ATLANTA -- Tim Hudson threw a fastball and sneaked a glance at the scoreboard.
When he saw a number in the 90s, he knew everything would be OK.
Bouncing back from a baffling performance, Hudson pitched six scoreless innings before tiring and also drove in two runs, leading the Braves past the woeful Washington Nationals 7-3 Monday night for Atlanta's fifth straight win.
Hudson (3-1) lasted only three innings in his previous start at Florida and couldn't get much higher that the mid-80s on the radar gun, prompting manager Bobby Cox to comment that "his arm was kind of dead." It came back to life against Washington.
The right-hander returned to the low 90s with his fastball and, thanks in part to his defense, managed to avoid any major trouble despite giving up 10 hits and walking two in 6 2/3 innings.
"It was nice to look up at the board and see something with a '9' in front of it instead of '8,"' said Hudson, who theorized he was still weak last week after getting over the flu. "Yeah, I was checking it out. I'm sure everybody on our club was checking it after my last outing."
The Braves have allowed only six runs during their winning streak, which pushed them above .500 for the first time this season at 10-9.
Washington keeps falling farther and farther back in the NL East. The Nationals lost their third in a row and have dropped 15 of 17 since starting the season with three straight wins.
Matt Chico (0-4) lasted just four innings, giving up six runs and eight hits. He walked Hudson in the third with the bases loaded, one of several miscues that showed the Nationals need a refresher in baseball fundamentals.
Washington had two runners thrown out at the plate, the second with Atlanta ahead 6-0, and another thrown out at second to thwart a potential rally in the eighth. The Nationals also allowed a Braves runner to sneak home on Hudson's sacrifice bunt in the second, giving the pitcher his first RBI of the night.
"Every play is important," manager Manny Acta said. "When you're struggling to score runs, you tend to push the action."
Hudson (3-1) went to the seventh with 7-0 lead, but the Nationals touched him for a couple of runs. He might have gotten though it if not for an error by first baseman Mark Teixeira, who dropped a routine throw and gave Washington an unearned run. Royce Ring got the final out with two on to preserve Atlanta's 7-2 lead.
Washington had a shot at going ahead in the first when Austin Kearns singled to right with two on. But Jeff Francoeur showed off one of the majors' best arms, easily throwing out Cristian Guzman with a one-hop strike to the plate.
Washington's most glaring blunder came in the fifth. Felipe Lopez doubled with one out, and pinch-hitter Rob Mackowiak followed with a hard grounder up the middle that deflected off second baseman Martin Prado for a hit.
Shortstop Yunel Escobar chased down the ball in the short center, wheeled around and threw toward home. Lopez, who never stopped running, was tagged out by catcher Brian McCann. Guzman followed with another hit that would have driven in Lopez -- if only he'd held at third.
The Braves jumped ahead in the first on a sacrifice fly by Chipper Jones, who was back in the lineup one day after leaving a game because of an ailing right quadriceps. Jones also extended his hitting streak to 13 games.
Atlanta scored three more in the second. McCann led off with his fifth homer, and runners were at first and third after two more hits. Hudson dropped a bunt toward third, looking mainly to move Gregor Blanco to second, but Matt Diaz was able to stray down the line when Washington had no one covering third.
As soon as Ryan Zimmerman threw to first, Diaz raced home to make it 2-0. Prado followed with a run-scoring double.
"I realized the shortstop was covering second," Diaz said. "When Zimmerman looked me, he just kind of shook his head, because he had to throw to first. I just kind of walked with him all the way down the line."
In the third, Chico walked Blanco intentionally to load the bases for Hudson, then walked him, too, to bring home another run. Prado picked up his second RBI of the night on a forceout, making it 6-0.
"He didn't have it," Nationals catcher Johnny Estrada said of Chico. "He was erratic from the start. He finally began to get his pitches down, but the damage had been done."
Former Brave Willie Harris broke up the shutout with a pinch-hit double in the seventh.
- Hudson improved to 7-1 with a 1.13 ERA in 11 career starts against the Nationals.
- Washington closer Chad Cordero pitched the eighth to get in some work. It was just his fourth appearance of the season.
- The teams have played five times, with Atlanta holding a 3-2 lead. They'll play eight times before the opening month is done. "We know Washington better than the president," Cox quipped.