Braves defeat Mets to maintain wild-card edge

ATLANTA -- Tim Hudson found the difference he needed by slightly adjusting his delivery.

By nudging his heel closer to the rubber, the Atlanta ace found the edge he was missing in three of his previous four starts.

"It was like night and day," he said after pitching the Braves past the New York Mets 1-0 Saturday. "It was good to figure it out now. I felt like something was very out of whack on my delivery."

Hudson struck out 10 and Chipper Jones hit an RBI single in the eighth inning as the Braves held their NL wild-card edge.

The Braves moved 4½ games ahead of St. Louis for the wild card. The Cardinals lost to Philadelphia 9-2, which clinched the NL East for the Phillies.

Hudson (15-10) held the Mets to four hits over eight innings, an improvment over his loss at St. Louis in his previous outing.

"Losing wasn't an option today," Hudson said. "We didn't get much, but we got enough. We've let some people down as a staff the last couple weeks. It was a game we needed to win."

Craig Kimbrel earned his 45th save in 51 chances after striking out the side, fanning David Wright, Lucas Duda and Jason Bay.

One day after the Mets beat Atlanta 12-2 and got 20 hits, Hudson and Kimbrel shut them down. The Braves have won three of four and the Mets have lost seven of eight.

Jones, whose career has been full of key hits against the Mets, did it again. He doubled in the seventh and was stranded, but delivered in the eighth.

R.A. Dickey (8-13) issued a leadoff walk to Jason Heyward, who moved up on Jose Constanza's sacrifice bunt and Michael Bourn's groundout. Martin Prado walked before Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen made a mound visit to discuss how Dickey would pitch to Jones.

Jones faced five pitches, all knuckeballs, before he singled over second base. In 810 career at-bats against the Mets, he has a .317 average, 48 homers and 153 RBIs.

"I never really think about successes or failures when I'm up there," Jones said. "I just think about the chess match between pitcher and hitter. It's pretty simple with him you know what you're going to get. You've just got to see it up and center it. Centering it is the hard part."

Hudson struck out at least 10 for the 12th time in his career. Dickey struck out four in 7 2/3 innings and also walked a season-high six.

Dickey held the Braves to three runners through the first five innings -- Prado's broken-bat single in the first and walks to Brian McCann in the second and Freddie Freeman in the fifth.

"I had a chance with Prado (in the eighth) and I had a knuckleball that just didn't bite," Dickey said. "It stayed up. I threw a good one to Chipper, and he did what a Hall of Famer does, you know? He hit a ground ball up the middle, and that was a good knuckleball."

Hudson escaped trouble in the third with runners on first and second when Dickey struck out on a sacrifice bunt attempt and Jose Reyes grounded into a double play.

"He was great today," Reyes said. "You have to give some credit to him. He was making some pitches, you know? His curveball, his sinker, everything was working today."

In the New York sixth, Ruben Tejada led off with a single and advanced to second on Hudson's wild pitch strikeout of Dickey. Hudson walked Reyes on four pitches, but stranded the runners on Angel Pagan's flyout and Wright's grounder.

Duda led off with a single in the seventh and advanced to second on a groundout by Nick Evans. On the play, it appeared on television replays that shortstop Alex Gonzalez beat Duda to the bag before throwing out Evans, and Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez left the dugout to argue with second base umpire Marvin Hudson.

After walking Josh Thole, Hudson struck out Tejada for his eighth strikeout. Jones didn't want to see Hudson's effort get wasted.

"He was locating his off-speed pitches early in the count," Jones said. "He had a good sinker, good curve. He threw them when he was behind in the count for strikes.That was the key. Hopefully this kind of re-energizes the ball club."

Game notes
Mets LF Bay made a diving catch to his right to rob Hudson of a potential leadoff double in the sixth. ... Fredi Gonzalez moved Prado to No. 2 in the batting order and put Jones in his usual third spot for the first time in his last eight games. ... New York dropped to 16-28 in Atlanta over the last five years. ... RHP Dillon Gee, New York's starter Sunday, lost 5-1 to Atlanta on Sept. 8, but is 2-2 with a 2.86 ERA in six career starts against the Braves. Gee is 1-0 with a 0.93 ERA in two starts at Turner Field. ... Rookie RHP Brandon Beachy will face New York for the first time in his career. Atlanta is 11-12 in his 2011 starts. Beachy is winless with a 4.24 ERA in his last three starts.