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Four-run third pushes Mets past Braves

NEW YORK - Tim Hudson repeatedly said he felt fine after another perplexing start. Just one bad inning, he said.

One bad inning was all New York needed to send the Atlanta Braves to another one-run loss.

Carlos Beltran hit a two-run double off Hudson in the Mets' four-run third inning, and New York held on for a 4-3 victory Saturday.

'It's been a while since we strung together a bunch of hits like that,' manager Willie Randolph said. 'It was good to see them attack a really fine pitcher and put the ball in play. We've been struggling a little bit there.'

John Maine pitched five effective innings and David Wright snapped out of a slump with two hits for the Mets, who had lost five of six. New York also earned its first victory in four games against Atlanta this year.

'Any time you go out there and beat the Braves, that's important,' Ryan Church said. 'They are a good ballclub.'

Atlanta dropped to 0-8 in one-run games, the only team in the majors without a win in that situation.

The Braves played without Chipper Jones, who was a late scratch after feeling spasms in the middle of his back in the clubhouse before the game. Jones was leading the majors with a .433 batting average entering Saturday.

'It's crazy,' said Jones, who could miss the finale of the three-game series Sunday. 'Seriously, it was feeling like somebody sledgehammered me in the back.'

Martin Prado replaced Jones at third base and did an admirable job after a first-inning error. He had two hits and made a defensive play that possibly prevented a run from scoring.

Prado's RBI single off slumping right-hander Aaron Heilman cut it to 4-3 in the sixth, but four Mets relievers combined to throw three scoreless innings.

Billy Wagner worked the ninth for his fifth save in five opportunities and has not allowed a hit in nine innings this season. Prado led off the ninth with a deep drive to center that Beltran caught on the warning track.

'Almost hit it out,' Braves manager Bobby Cox said. 'Another five feet, it's gone.'

Atlanta led 2-0 before New York rallied in the third. Endy Chavez singled with one out and Wright broke an 0-for-19 skid with a hit to right, putting runners on first and second.

'He made a few mistakes today,' Wright said of Hudson. 'We were aggressive early in the count and when he made a mistake we jumped on it.'

Beltran then hit a long drive over the head of center fielder Mark Kotsay. Chavez scored easily and Wright slid in just ahead of catcher Brian McCann's tag, the All-Star third baseman hopping up and pumping his right arm.

Church tripled in Beltran and scored on Carlos Delgado's groundout to make it 4-2. New York nearly had its first five-run inning since April 2, but Prado made a leaping grab of Gustavo Molina's liner with a runner on second for the final out.

'I just ran into some trouble that third inning and the inning just kind of sped up on me,' Hudson said.

That was the final inning for Hudson (3-2), who allowed seven hits and threw just 60 pitches in another difficult start. The right-hander lasted three innings at Florida on April 16, struggling with velocity on his fastball, but bounced back with 62/3 innings in a win against Washington on Monday.

Hudson's normal velocity - he usually can throw in the low 90s - appeared to be there against New York, but he had another big problem in the third.

'It was just still one of those things where I was missing some location, missing up and over the plate a little bit,' Hudson said. 'They made me pay for it.'