When the chips are down the man Braves fans want on the mound is Tim Hudson. Tonight at the age of 37 years 290 days Huddy – as his adoring Braves fans like to call him – taught the Nationals how to Huddy as he won his 200th game. And he did it in style.
In The Beginning
The Athletics wanted Tim Hudson so badly they drafted him twice, the first time was in the 35th round of the 1994 Draft and finally in the 6th round of the 1997 Draft. The 24 year old made his Major League debut in a five inning loss June 8, 1999 against the Padres allowing three earned runs. His first win came in his next start, on June 13 going seven innings and allowing one run while beating the Dodgers.
In the early part of this century (wow that sounds like a long times ago) Hudson along with Mark Mulder and Barry Zito were the reason – in spite of not being mentioned at all in the movie – that the Athletics were a force in the AL West. He won 20 games in 2000 and 18 in 2001; by the end of the 2004 season Hudson was recognized as one of the best in the game with a record of 92-39 (a .702 winning percentage) in 183 starts with a 3.30 ERA and a 1.222 WHIP. All if that while pitching in the middle of Baseball’s steroid era. Yet somehow in what many would call his last great trade, John Schuerholz pried him away from Oakland for Juan Cruz, Dan Meyer and Charles Thomas.
Welcome Home To Atlanta
A Georgia native Hudson was extremely happy to come home to the team he’d grown up supporting, the Braves and manager Bobby Cox. His arrival unfortunately coincided with a downturn in Braves postseason appearances. Hudson loved Atlanta so much he took a very friendly four year $36m contract that sees him under Braves control through this season. Coming into tonight’s game Huddy was 107 –66 as a Brave having failed to get his 200th win last week in Denver when Justin Upton and Craig Kimbrel couldn’t hold his lead. Tonight however Hudson would not be denied.
Hudson took just 15 pitches to send the Nationals into the field in the first. Andrelton Simmons needed just two pitches to put the Braves and Hudson in front for good, homering off of Gio Gonzalez into the left field stands. The Braves treated Gonzalez badly in DC and they were harder on him tonight. By the time Gonzalez headed for the showers in the fifth to be replaced by Zach Duke he’d given up five runs on seven hits walking five and striking out nine. Duke had didn’t have any better luck against a Braves lineup that had their tails up and were firing on (almost) all cylinders. He lasted three innings giving up four hits and allowing three runs including a home run to Hudson that Bryce Harper had in his glove but couldn’t hold. Tonight however no light shined brighter than Hudson’s.
With his wife and daughter in the stands accompanied by every relative that could get to the game, Hudson put on a show. His final line of seven innings, three hits one run, one walk and six strikeouts doesn’t tell the story. Whenever there was a sniff of something going a little off course Hudson stepped up and righted the ship. In his last inning Ian Desmond tripled down the right field line. He finished the inning still standing at third base as Hudson induced Tyler Moore to ground of to Chris Johnson with Desmond unable to advance. Hudson then struck out Chad Tracy swinging and Wilson Ramos looking to end the inning and take all the fight out of the Nationals. He left the mound to a roar from the Turner Field crowd, tipping his hat as he went into the dugout. Anthony Varvaro entered in the eighth and set the next six Nats down in order to end their night.
After the game Hudson was as usual quiet and humble in his success. he told reporters:
“I couldn’t have written it up any better for me personally. My family was here. Kim and Kennedie came. My dad, my brothers, some nieces and nephews were here. It was fun to go out there and have some fun from start to finish. We put up some runs early, made it easier on me to go out there and be aggressive. To get out of that one (seventh) inning with a lead-off triple without giving it up was kind of a cherry on top.”
Asked how he felt mentioned in the same sentence as Phil Niekro, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz:
“Honestly, I don’t know. I still don’t consider myself really worthy of being in those kinds of conversations. But talk to me in five years. If I’m not in a wheelchair.”
That’s A Wrap
Tim Hudson is the fifth Braves pitcher to win 200 games and second pitcher in the live ball era to homer and help himself win his 200 game. He’s the first only only one to double, homer and score two runs in his 200th win. He’s now 60-32 at turner field, second in wins there to Greg Maddux (72). Hudson may not be the prototypical ace with a 95MPH heater who strikes out a ten a game but if the season is on the line and a series has to be won, he’s the man fans want to see on the bump to start the game. Ina a post game interview on the field Hudson was as usual humble in his success. Congratulations Tim Hudson. You’re a true gentleman and one hell of a fine pitcher.