Wandy Rodriguez pitched so well, he made his manager almost consider giving him 10 days rest between all his starts.
Rodriguez faced the minimum while throwing seven innings of 1-hit ball to and help the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Atlanta Braves, 6-0, on Friday.
Scratched from his most recent scheduled start after leaving his previous outing in the third inning because of a strained hamstring, Rodriguez (2-0) allowed only Jason Heyward’s one-out single in the fourth. Justin Upton followed by grounding into a double play.
Rodriguez struck out five without a walk against a Braves lineup that leads the majors in home runs.
“When you see a guy twirling like he did today, there’s not any team that’s going to put up much against him,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “It wasn’t just the strikes but the location of the strikes. It was like he was throwing darts.
“I don’t know if we can afford to throw him every 11th day, but that was pretty special.”
Braves starter Tim Hudson came up short in his first attempt at win No. 200, allowing six runs on nine hits in four-plus innings.
Pedro Alvarez homered for the second consecutive game and Russell Martin, Neil Walker and Travis Snider each reached base three times for Pittsburgh, which has won seven of its past 10 after a 1-5 start to the season.
Mark Melancon pitched a perfect eighth and Vin Mazzaro allowed Andrelton Simmons’ leadoff single in the ninth before finishing off the shutout, Pittsburgh’s third this season.
Rodriguez, through a translator, said he was “a little bit scared” about how his hamstring would respond on an unseasonably chilly night at PNC Park. There were no outward signs of pain or rust.
“That’s as sharp as you’d ever want to see a guy,” Hurdle said. “From the start, from pitch No. 1 to the 82nd pitch that he threw, he was excellent. He had fastball command, downhill plane, a good breaking ball, pitched to both sides of the plate. He was excellent, just excellent. He threw a lot of first-pitch strikes and he minimized deep counts against a good-hitting team. He gave us just what we needed.”
Hudson (2-1) fell to 199-105 in his 15-year career and 6-6 against the Pirates. His next victory will allow him to join Andy Pettitte and Roy Halladay as the only active 200-game winners.
It was quickly apparent Hudson did not have his best stuff. He was tagged for five extra-base hits in the first two innings, and two other Pirates outs in that span were hard-hit lineouts.
“It was just a night where I just wasn’t very good from almost the start,” Hudson said. “It was a battle from the beginning. But you’ve got to tip your hat to those guys.”
The notoriously streaky Alvarez went homerless in his first 14 games before taking Julio Teheran deep in the series opener Thursday. Friday’s second-inning shot with Neil Walker aboard cleared the section of seats that sit above the 21-foot wall in right field.
“The last few days have been pretty good for me,” Alvarez said. “I’m getting in some kind of rhythm now and I’m stringing some good at-bats together. Hopefully, things are starting to turn for me. I feel good at the plate.”