Four losses in a row have the Braves down to their final game of the season for a shot at making the playoffs, this after leading the wild card by 8 ½ games three weeks ago.
But their ace Tim Hudson will take the mound at Turner Field on Wednesday night against the Phillies confident.
“I’m ready,” Hudson said after Tuesday’s loss. “I feel good about it. I feel like we’re going to go out there and win the ball game tomorrow. Hopefully with the win it’s a clinch. If not, we’ll go to St. Louis and take care of business there.”
Hudson is pitching against the Phillies’ Joe Blanton, though Blanton is expected to go only a couple of innings in a “bullpen game” for the Phillies, who’d like to get Cole Hamels and Vance Worley some action as well.
The Braves and Cardinals are now tied for the wild card lead, meaning if they both win or both lose on Wednesday, they’ll go to a tiebreaker on Thursday.
The Braves and Cardinals would play a one-game playoff in St. Louis, by virtue of the Braves’ losing five of six games head-to-head with the Cardinals this season. Brandon Beachy is slated to pitch that game for the Braves, if necessary, starting at 8:07 EDT on TBS.
To force that game, or win the wild card outright and get the Braves into the playoffs for the second straight year, Hudson knows he has to pitch well. That’s no easy task against the NL East division champion Phillies, who have scored 11 runs in the past two nights to win games No. 100 and 101 on the season.
But Hudson has been there. He beat the Phillies on the final day of the 2010 season to help the Braves clinch the wild card in Bobby Cox’s last season as Braves’ manager. Hudson limited the Phillies to four runs in seven innings in an 8-7 win.
“It’s exactly the same essentially,” said Hudson, who is 1-1 with a 3.48 ERA in three starts against the Phillies this season. “I enjoy it. It’s going to be fun. I’m going to be having the most fun out of anybody in the stadium tomorrow.”
Hudson has won his last two starts in fairly dominant fashion, with eight shutout innings in a 1-0 win over the Mets, and then allowing three runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Nationals in a game he had to leave early with cramps.
Hudson spent much of Friday night after that game in the hospital receiving five bags of IV fluids, but it shouldn’t be a factor on Wednesday. Hudson said it was his fault for not hydrating properly for the humidity in Washington.
Hudson’s recent success came after he made an adjustment with the positioning of his heel on the rubber, and with the angle of his wrist behind the ball. The result has been better action on his pitches, especially his patented sinker.
“My last two starts I considered playoff type games; essentially they were that important,” Hudson said. “(Wednesday) is no different.”
The Braves have won only four of their past 11 games, and Hudson has won two of those. This is the pitcher the Braves would handpick to start with the season on the line.
“If we’ve got to win a game, I’d want Huddy on the mound,” Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said.
The same goes for Hudson.
“There’s not another place I’d be rather be than out there on the mound when the game means something,” Hudson said.