Last week I blogged about the three players whom I viewed as being the keys to the Braves’ playoff hopes down the stretch, led by the non-clutch-hitting likes of Derrek Lee.
There didn’t seem to be a reason to list Tim Hudson as one of the keys because, well, I just assumed greatness. Big mistake.
After losses by Georgia, Georgia Tech and the Falcons, Hudson brought the Atlanta Sports Weekend From Hell to an appropriate ending Sunday night. He turned mediocre.
Hudson was slammed for six runs, nine hits, two moonshots by Albert Pujols, two walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch in five innings. He also allowed an RBI single to pitcher Kyle Lohse (.192) and a two-run triple to No. 9 hitting Brendan Ryan (.224). The Braves lost to St. Louis, 7-3, to fell one game back of Philadelphia in the National League East.
About those keys to the postseason, let’s start over: If Hudson is not the shut-down pitcher he has been for most of this season, the Braves have almost no shot of reaching the postseason. And right now, he is far from a shutdown pitcher.
The Braves don’t have the hitting to support erratic starting pitching, and they don’t have another starter at Hudson’s level. Or at least what Hudson’s level used to be.
“I just didn’t make some pitches,” Hudson said. “They made me pay for it, especially right there in that [four-run] fifth inning.”
When asked how he felt physically, given the drop-off in his recent starts, he said: “I feel fine. Tonight was really the only game in the last few when I felt like I wasn’t in a rhythm from start to finish. Some of the other games it seemed like there was one inning that would kind of get me. … Tonight was a struggle from the start.”
Hudson (15-8) has lost three straight starts (ERA: 5.59). He actually has won just once in his last six outings (1-3 with two no decisions). It kills any chance for a 20-win season, but the bigger issue is the damage that it has done to the Braves’ playoff hopes.
As Hudson said, he really hadn’t been beat up until Sunday. The previous two losses: He allowed four runs (three earned) in seven innings in a 4-2 defeat to the New York Mets on Sept. 2 and threw 6 1/3 shutout innings against Pittsburgh last Tuesday before getting dented in the seventh for four runs in a 5-0 loss.
The problem is the Braves’ margin for error is so small, they can’t afford to have their No. 1 pitcher level off.
The timing couldn’t be worse.
Have you entered the “Sack Schultz” contest yet? You can win tickets to the Georgia-Georgia Tech game and an HDTV. CLICK HERE for details.
Earlier posts, now on demand . . .