Howard doubled in his first at-bat and was 2-for-4 in his first game since rupturing his left Achilles tendon on the final swing in a postseason elimination loss to St. Louis last October.
But even with their regulars together for the first time, the struggling Phillies generated nothing on offense. The five-time defending NL East champions are a season-worst 11 games under .500.
Hudson (7-4) nearly went pitch-for-pitch with Kyle Kendrick, who also threw seven scoreless innings and allowed four hits. Kendrick had five strikeouts — Hudson had none — but Hudson got the win.
Antonio Bastardo (2-3) replaced Kendrick to start the eighth and immediately ran into trouble. Pinch-hitter Matt Diaz led off with a single
and Michael Bourn walked. After Martin Prado hit a shallow fly and Jason Heyward popped out, Chipper Jones walked to load the bases. Freddie Freeman then walked to force in the first run.
McCann followed with a shot to straightaway center for his ninth career slam, giving the Braves a 5-0 lead.
Bastardo left the mound to loud boos from frustrated fans, who’ve watched the NL’s highest-paid team underachieve all season. Since five-time All-Star Chase Utley returned last week, the Phillies are 1-8.
Utley missed 76 games. Howard, the 2006 NL MVP, missed 84.
Even with the addition of a second wild-card team, it’ll take a monumental turnaround for these Phillies to reach the postseason for a sixth straight year.
Howard drove the second pitch he saw to the warning track in right-center and easily made it to second base standing. But he stayed there. Carlos Ruiz flied out to shallow right, and Hunter Pence and Juan Pierre grounded out.
Hudson ran into trouble after needing nine pitches to retire Kendrick for the second out in the sixth. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino followed with consecutive singles, getting a runner to third base for the first time for either team. But Utley hit a slow tapper to first to end the inning.
Kendrick worked out of a jam in the seventh after Jones and Freeman started with singles. McCann was called out on strikes, Dan Uggla fouled out and Andrelton Simmons grounded out.
Kendrick was 0-4 with a 7.67 ERA in his previous five starts.
NOTES: Jones extended his hitting streak to 12. ... With Howard missing from the lineup, manager Charlie Manuel tried six different cleanup hitters. Pence (43 games) and Ruiz (23) were most used in that spot. ... Kendrick remains 6-1 vs. Atlanta. ... Howard has six homers in 55 career at-bats against Hudson. ... Uggla, the NL starting 2B in the All-Star games, was dropped to seventh in the batting order. He went 0-for-3 and is hitting .223. ... Howard isn’t slated to start tonight, but should return to the lineup Sunday. Utley may start three straight games for first time since returning. ... The Phillies had their 262nd straight sellout, counting postseason. ... Tommy Hanson (9-5, 3.70) starts for the Braves against Philadelphia’s Joe Blanton (7-7, 4.85) tonight.