SAN FRANCISCO -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez wanted to reward Tim Hudson with the opportunity to notch a complete-game victory. But once things proved a little too interesting in the ninth, Gonzalez chose to protect what his offense had accomplished against a shaky Tim Lincecum.
Hudson came within one out of a complete game and the Braves took advantage of Lincecum's career-high six walks while claiming a 5-2 win over the Giants at AT&T Park on Saturday afternoon.
"He's one of those guys you have to be patient with because he can control every single pitch he has," the Braves' Martin Prado said in reference to Lincecum. "He can throw any pitch in any count. He just made a couple mistakes and fortunately we got some big hits in the right spot and at the right time."
This certainly didn't look like the same Lincecum who recorded 14 strikeouts while tossing a two-hit shutout against the Braves in Game 1 of last year's National League Division Series. Of course, this also didn't look like the same Braves lineup that struggled to show patience during the first couple of weeks of this season.
"I think [Lincecum] had really good stuff," Hudson said. "I just think our guys put some really good at-bats on him. We took a lot of balls that most people swing at. He does a really good job of throwing things in and out of the zone and getting swings and misses. Today we weren't swinging at those pitches. That's the way you have to attack him."
Prado produced three clutch at-bats against Lincecum and provided a little cushion for Hudson, who allowed two earned runs and nine hits in 8 2/3 innings. The 35-year-old right-hander allowed a pair of hits that led to a run in the ninth inning and exited after ending an eight-pitch at-bat against Nate Schierholtz with a strikeout.
With a three-run lead and Cody Ross on second base, Gonzalez opted to bring in closer Craig Kimbrel to record the last out without the potentially tying run at the plate. Working his third straight day, Kimbrel needed just five pitches to retire Buster Posey and preserve Hudson's effort.
"It's a catch-22 because if you let [Hudson] face Posey and he gets a base hit now you have to bring in Kimbrel with first and second and no wiggle room," Gonzalez said. "I always like to give closers wiggle room."
Bidding for his first complete-game win since May 2, 2008, and the club's first complete-game victory since Javier Vazquez bested the Nationals on Sept. 25, 2009, Hudson entered the ninth inning having thrown 98 pitches. He immediately surrendered a double to Pat Burrell, who advanced to third base on a Ross single and scored on Miguel Tejada's long sacrifice fly.
"It's disappointing," Hudson said. "When you go out there and get two outs in the ninth you obviously hope to finish it. But we wanted to give Kembo [Kimbrel] a little wiggle room and the pitch count got up there. I was laboring a little bit. It works out. A win is a win."
This was a much-needed win for Hudson, who had lost his previous two starts, and the Braves, who have attempted to turn the tide while winning the first two games of this series against the defending World Series champs. This marks just the third time this year that they have won consecutive games and the second time they've done so in the same series.
"Today was one of those situations where I did it to myself and didn't put us in position to have a good game," said Lincecum, who is 1-3 with a 5.11 ERA in his past four regular-season starts against the Braves.
Lincecum walked the afternoon's first two batters and still faced just the minimum three batters in the first inning. But the two-time Cy Young Award winner didn't prove as fortunate in the third inning when he surrendered a one-out single to Nate McLouth and then issued a five-pitch walk as Hudson was attempting to produce a sacrifice bunt.
That set the stage for Prado to begin his three-RBI performance with a game-tying single up the middle. He gave the Braves the lead for good with a two-out, fifth-inning single that scored McLouth, who had walked and moved into scoring position on Hudson's sacrifice bunt.
Prado added to Lincecum's frustrations with a one-out, seventh-inning chopper that would have resulted in an out had Giants catcher Eli Whiteside secured the ball before attempting to tag Alex Gonzalez. Three batters later, Braves catcher Brian McCann provided some cushion with a two-run single off left-handed reliever Javier Lopez.
"I thought we had a great gameplan today," McCann said. "We made him throw pitches. Everybody had a good eye today and got his pitch count up."
Lincecum needed 27 pitches to complete the third inning and threw 72 pitches through the first five innings. He was charged with five earned runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings.
"You want to get his pitch count up to try to get him out of the game," McLouth said. "But on the other hand, if you're constantly getting behind in the count, that's not a good place to be against him. We had good at-bats up and down the lineup and we were lucky to get his pitch count up."
While delivering the key third-inning single and drawing walks in the fifth and seventh innings, McLouth helped compensate for the fact that he once again reacted slowly after fielding Ross' one-out second-inning single to center field. When he hesitated to throw the ball back to the infield, Burrell aggressively opted to surprise the Braves with what proved to be a successful dash to the plate.
"It was a fun game," Hudson said. "We beat a good pitcher and we beat a pretty good team. We'll go tomorrow for the sweep."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.