NEW YORK – Tim Hudson pitched five-hit ball for six innings and scored a run in his first start in over a month, leading the Atlanta Braves to a 3-0 victory over the New York Mets on Saturday night.

Kelly Johnson had two hits with two RBIs for Atlanta, which has won two straight following a three-game losing streak.

Hudson was activated from the disabled list before the game and was on the mound for the first time since June 13, when he was forced out after 2 2-3 innings by a strained muscle in his left side.

But Hudson (7-5) showed little signs of rust, in the 198th start of his career. He got through six innings on just 62 pitches and earned his 99th victory.

His .692 winning percentage (99-44) is third among pitchers with 100 decisions and second only to New York’s Pedro Martinez among active hurlers.

With his former pitching coach, Rick Peterson, watching from the Mets dugout, Hudson struck out one and didn’t issue a walk. He is 2-0 against New York this season and hasn’t allowed a run in 14 innings.

It was as if he was trying to keep up with his former teammates on the Oakland Athletics, the team that dealt him to Atlanta during the offseason. Rich Harden and Barry Zito carried no-hitters into the eighth inning on Thursday and Friday.

Hudson ran into trouble a few times, but was helped out by fine defense. Twice after singles by Doug Mientkiewicz, Hudson induced catcher Ramon Castro to hit into double plays.

Atlanta has taken two of three from the last-place Mets and improved to 9-3 against them this season. The four-game series concludes Sunday when Mike Hampton will come off the disabled list to pitch against Martinez.

John Smoltz beat the Mets 2-1 on Friday night in his first game against longtime Braves teammate Tom Glavine.

Jim Brower and Dan Kolb pitched two innings of scoreless relief for the Braves, paving the way for Chris Reitsma, who worked the ninth for his ninth save in 13 chances.

The third inning was the toughest for Hudson, who earned his first victory since May 29 – a span of four starts.

Miguel Cairo led off with a double and was sacrificed to third by Mets starter Victor Zambrano. Jose Reyes then grounded to first baseman Adam LaRoche, who threw home to nail Cairo despite playing back in the infield. Wilson Betemit then made a nifty backhand play on Mike Cameron’s grounder to end the inning.

The Braves took a 1-0 lead in the third when Hudson, who reached on a fielder’s choice, scored from second on a two-out single to center field by Johnson.

In the fourth, Andruw Jones drew a leadoff walk and came around on Ryan Langerhans’ double that split the gap in left-center.

Zambrano (4-8) allowed fewer than three earned runs for the 16th time in 17 starts but he is 0-2 in his last three starts. He retired the side in order only twice in seven innings but worked around trouble and scattered six hits, striking out six and walking four.

In his last nine starts, he is 2-4 with an ERA of 2.36.

The Braves added a run in the ninth off Danny Graves, who helped the inning along when he threw away Rafael Furcal’s bunt. Johnson then singled in Pete Orr to make it 3-0.

Notes: Furcal, who leads the NL with 29 stolen bases, was caught trying to swipe second by Mets catcher Ramon Castro after drawing a walk to start the game. It was the fifth time he was thrown out. … Mets C Mike Piazza got the day off and is expected to start Sunday. … Mientkiewicz was activated from the DL before the game.

AP-ES-07-16-05 2141EDT

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