MIAMI -- Tim Hudson had waited more than a year to get back to the big leagues. After months of rehabilitation -- and a rain delay that lasted nearly three hours -- he finally got his chance.
Hudson (1-0) gave up six hits and two runs in 5 1/3 innings in his first big league start since having elbow ligament replacement surgery almost 13 months ago.
"I wasn't sure we were going to get it in," Hudson said. "It took a while to get it going. But it was better late than never."
Brian McCann and Garret Anderson each had an RBI, and the Braves took advantage of a balk by starter Anibal Sanchez (2-6) to beat the Marlins for the second straight night in a series pivotal for both teams' postseason chances. Atlanta is three games behind Colorado for the NL wild card, and Florida fell five back.
Marlins All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez left in the top of the fifth with a tight left hamstring, the team said. Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez said the "cramp" likely had a lot to do with the delay, and doesn't think the injury will sideline his star slugger.
A long day that ended with a loss was disheartening enough.
"I don't even know what time it is, really," Gonzalez said. "You're so locked in on a good ballgame. It was a one-run ballgame in the end. I'm sure it's going to hit me in about 20 minutes."
All that was after a rain delay that seemed as though it would never end. The final out came at 1:02 a.m. Wednesday.
"Yeah, it's frustrating," Marlins outfielder Chris Coghlan said. "We had some chances and didn't capitalize. Lately it seems like we haven't got the big hit."
The rain and thunderstorms around the ballpark never let the starters warm up for the original start time. The Marlins were able to begin batting practice about 2½ hours before the game, then the sky quickly blackened, and fast-moving storms forced players to retreat to the dugout and sent the grounds crew scurrying to put the tarp on the field.
About 1,000 fans remained when the game finally started in a light drizzle at exactly 10 p.m., the field soggy but solid. The few left were wrapped in ponchos and damp clothes, a spirited bunch of Marlins and Braves fans who tried to make up for the stadium's orange and aqua seats left wet and empty.
None of that could put a damper on a big night for Atlanta's former ace.
Hudson had last pitched July 23, 2008, when he walked off the same mound in Florida with discomfort in his right arm. He had surgery last August.
"For his first outing, in starting three hours late, hanging out here all day, wondering when the first pitch was going to be about 10 different times, I thought he did great," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.
Now, after more than a year recovering and more than a month of rehab starts in the minors, the right-hander rejoined a rotation that is already one of the strongest in the big leagues and looking to make a move into the playoffs.
"It gives us six good ones. It gives us a lot of options," Cox said.
Matt Diaz had a leadoff single and scored on a double play later in the first to give the Braves a 1-0 lead.
The Marlins answered fast in the bottom half, with Coghlan and Wes Helms starting with back-to-back doubles. Both scored on Jorge Cantu's single.
After Sanchez balked in a run, McCann hit an RBI double in the third that put Atlanta ahead 3-2.
- Florida has had three rainouts this season in Miami, a big reason the team is looking forward to a new retractable-roof ballpark expected to open in 2012.