NEW YORK — That's two duds in a row for Jeremy Hefner after he finished the first half with such a flourish.
Hefner gave up a career-high three home runs and the New York Mets mustered nothing on offense Wednesday night until opposing pitcher Tim Hudson broke his right ankle during the Atlanta Braves' 8-2 victory.
"Obviously, it's frustrating. The team is playing well, we're playing good defense and we're scoring runs and I'm not holding up my end of the deal," Hefner said. "To have my performance tonight is unacceptable."
Hefner (4-8) compiled a 1.76 ERA in his final eight starts before the All-Star break, the best mark in the majors during that span. But he was tagged for a career-worst eight runs and 10 hits in two-plus innings last Friday against Philadelphia, a personal nemesis throughout his two-year career.
The right-hander wasn't much better against Atlanta, allowing six runs – five earned – and six hits in 4 1-3 innings. All three homers he served up were no-doubters, too.
"Obviously coming out of the break, he's not the same guy he was going in," manager Terry Collins said. "You can't make mistakes to this team. They have too much power to make those kind of mistakes."
Wearing orange jerseys with Los Mets written across the chest, Collins' players were a danger to themselves and their opponents.
When star slugger David Wright broke his bat on a double-play grounder in the fourth, the barrel buggy-whipped around on his follow through and hit him in the back of the neck.
Wright barely got out of the box before stopping in his tracks and bending over in pain. Collins and a trainer came out to check on Wright in a moment of genuine concern, but he cracked a sheepish smile while rubbing his head as he walked back to the dugout.
"I thought he blew a hamstring or something coming out of the batter's box," Collins said. "I was a little concerned, obviously, anytime you get hit in the head with anything."
Wright stayed in the game, but Hudson wasn't as lucky.
He took a shutout into the eighth inning before Eric Young Jr. inadvertently stepped on the back of the pitcher's lower right leg while trying to beat out a grounder. The 38-year-old right-hander with 205 career wins was carted off the field in obvious pain and had X-rays at Citi Field.
He will have surgery in Atlanta once the swelling goes down, leaving the NL East leaders without a veteran winner who was on a roll. It's unclear how long Hudson will be sidelined or whether he'll be able to pitch again this season.
"I knew I didn't get any of the base. I got all of his foot," a somber Young said. "I pretty much knew it was broke right when I did it. That's why I ran back to him and tried to console him as much as I could and to apologize."
Evan Gattis, Dan Uggla and Andrelton Simmons all homered off Hefner to help the Braves' bats break loose after scoring only four runs in their previous three games.
Hudson (8-7) was working on a four-hitter when Young hit a grounder that was knocked down by first baseman Freddie Freeman. The pitcher took Freeman's toss at the bag just before Young arrived, and the speedy outfielder accidentally drove the pitcher's right ankle awkwardly into the ground.
Hudson immediately went down, and Young rushed over to check on him. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and a trainer also ran out to aid Hudson, who took off his cap and held his shaved head in his hands.
The crowd at Citi Field groaned when the replay was shown on the big video board. Gonzalez said he hadn't seen it – and wasn't sure he wanted to.
"It didn't look good," Collins said.
EMS workers finally strapped Hudson to a backboard and drove him off the field on a cart as fans applauded.
Young remained nearby throughout the entire delay, which lasted almost 10 minutes, and shook Hudson's hand before he was carted away.
Hudson, who has overcome Tommy John surgery and back surgery within the past five years, nodded back and told Young it wasn't his fault.
Hudson won his fourth straight start, striking out nine in 7 2-3 innings – his most since fanning 10 Mets on June 17, 2011. Luis Avilan replaced him and gave up a two-run double to Daniel Murphy, who made two errors at second base.
"We won, but it's a tough night," Braves catcher Brian McCann said.
NOTES: RHP Zack Wheeler (3-1, 3.58) pitches the series finale Thursday. The prized rookie threw six shutout innings at Atlanta to win his big league debut June 18. ... Mets OF Lucas Duda (ribcage) and catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud (foot) began their rehab assignments in the rookie level Gulf Coast League. Duda will play left field and first base during his rehab stint, Collins said. ... LHP Jonathon Niese (shoulder) should begin a rehab assignment in the GCL no later than next week, Collins said. ... Reserve infielder Justin Turner will make his first start Thursday since coming off the disabled list, Collins said. ... Hudson is 17-10 in 30 starts against the Mets. ... Hefner became the first Mets pitcher to give up more than two long balls in a home game this season.