(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien today.)
So tonight it’s Game 2 of the Blue Jays series and the Braves are going to have a hard time topping what went on last night, at least any one individual Brave. Those of us just “fresh in” from traveling back from a trip to Alaska weren’t sure if it was foggy, jet-lagged brain or if Tim Hudson really hit a two-run homer.
Ah, but there it was confirmed in my paper this morning. Right along with Hudson’s eight shutout, two-hit innings. He didn’t walk a batter until the ninth inning and struck out eight in an impressive a win as you’ll see by a pitcher.
I will say I think I ran faster in mile 22 of the Alaska Marathon Saturday than Hudson ran around the bases after his homer but hey, he had been pitching for seven innings, and in weather about 20 degrees hotter than what we got in Anchorage.
Hudson retired 20 in a row at one point, threw a four-pitch inning, got nine ground ball outs hit to shortstop Alex Gonzalez. His home run was no foolin’ either, well up into the seats over left field. I think I saw him mouth something to Chipper Jones in the dugout like “that went way up there.”
As fun as the home run was, I’m sure many of you were just happy to see him look so much more like himself on the mound. Hudson had been 1-4 with a 5.80 ERA and .271 batting average in his previous seven starts.
He said on TV after the game that he’d made an adjustment after watching some video from ’02 and ’03 with the A’s – back when he had sub 3.00 ERAs in the American League, some of the finest work of his career.
Hudson said he made an adjustment with his hands and where they were when he started his windup to help his arm catch up; that’s I believe how he put it. Looks like it worked pretty well, as his pitches were much more consistently down in the strike zone.
Hudson had been 2-11 in interleague play as a Brave since 2005, and the Braves had won just two of his 18 interleague starts overall. He had a little fun with interleague play Monday night, though, and showed his old friends in the AL just how much of a wild card it can be when the pitcher gets to hit for himself.
All you had to do was watch the expression on Ricky Romero’s face to know that. He dropped to his knees after giving up the home run on a fastball in, and later in the dugout, obviously frustrated, he huffed and puffed and pulled his jersey up over his face.
Our folks asked Hudson last night about whether his at-bat was an argument against the designated hitter. His response?
“No, we suck honestly hitting,” Hudson said. “I was hitting .040 coming into this game. But it was a big hit. A big homer.”
According to Elias, Hudson became only the fifth pitcher in the last 40 years to pitch in a game and hit a home run that accounted for all the runs. He joined Bob Welch (1983 Dodgers), Odalis Perez (2002 Dodgers), Brad Hennessey (2005 Giants) and Yovani Gallardo (2009 Brewers).
From what DOB has been reporting, it sounds like Chipper could be back in the lineup tonight after missing four games with a strained adductor muscle.
Last night’s game was the first game all year that both Jones and Brian McCann had been out of the lineup. It was weird to see them over there talking to each other in the dugout.
Fredi Gonzalez has made it a point to have one or the other of those guys in the lineup every day. With Jones’ latest injury, Gonzalez pretty much had no choice because he needed to give McCann a day off.
For those who’ve asked whether McCann is getting more off time under Gonzalez than Bobby Cox, I had a look back over the previous four years and I think he’s probably getting just a little more regular rest under Gonzalez.
Through 74 games as of June 20 this year, McCann has been out of the starting lineup 14 times. Last year on June 19, he’d been out of the starting lineup 15 times, but you figure some of those were when he was dealing with blurry vision problems.
McCann sat out 23 starts through the first 67 games in 2009 but that was after spending time in April and May on the disabled list with his eye problems. Through June 20 of 2008, he was out of the starting lineup only nine times. In 2007, on June 20, he’d been out 16 times.
Mike Minor is back on the mound tonight for his fifth start in place of Brandon Beachy. (Beachy is slated to come off the disabled list on Wednesday against the Blue Jays, pitching in place of the injured Tommy Hanson, who had shoulder tendinitis, rather than making a second minor league rehabilitation start.)
Minor gave up five runs in 4 1/3 innings in his last start against the Mets in a no-decision in the game the Braves won Thursday on a balk-off. He hasn’t won a game since last Aug. 31 against the Mets when he won three starts in a row in career starts No. 2, 3, and 4 as a Brave. Since then he’s 0-4 with a 6.75 ERA and a .341 opponents’ batting average over 10 starts.
The Blue Jays are pitching a rookie tonight in Zach Stewart, who is where Minor was last August – making his second ever major league start. He made his debut on Thursday against the Orioles, allowing only two runs in seven innings of a no-decision. He gave up seven hits, including a homer, walked one and struck out four. He averaged only 12.3 pitches per inning.
Stewart is one of the pieces the Blue Jays acquired in a deal at the trade deadline in 2009 for Scott Rolen, along with Edwin Encarnacion, and Josh Roenicke.
None of the Braves have ever faced Stewart before, at least at the major league level, which as you know spells a little trouble for the Braves, who have struggled in recent years against unfamiliar pitchers.
OK better post this and see if I remember how to get to the Ted. In case anyone asks, I ran a 4:54 in Alaska. Not a great time, but had a great time. Eight miles of trail running (complete with gravel rocks to dodge) made the legs feel a little groggy at the end but made for gorgeous views of the mountains.