The July 24 Braves/Mets matchup was looking good for the local favorites. Tim Hudson was working seven innings and change with a four-hit shutout cushioned by a 6-0 lead. Left fielder Eric Young, Jr. landed a weak hit. Freddie Freeman moved for the ball, Hudson covered first base and Young tried a full-force run to beat the out. What came next was a worst-case scenario in real time.
Young stepped on Hudson’s ankle. Hudson went down…and stayed there. The Citi Field crowd went into group shock. Young was mortified, even tearful. Fans watching Fox Sportsouth (this writer included) had a long-distance moment of disbelief, followed by the reality of Hudson leaving the field on a cart and those impossible-to-watch replays. The news kept coming: none of it was good. Tim Hudson, the Braves’ ace starter, out for the season with a broken ankle. At age 38 and in the final year of his contract, there’s the sad but real possibility that the game against the Mets might be his last as a Brave.
Losing a 200-game winner and seasoned vet with postseason play under his belt leaves a gaping void for a young pitching crew, there’s no getting around it. How much of an impact will it make in the big picture? Too soon to tell. Brandon Beachy, Paul Maholm, Kris Medlin, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran are all solid starters: Medlin is the only one with playoff experience (last year’s one game “playoff” against St. Louis). This could be a factor if the Braves stay on top of the NL East or, at the least, make the wild card cut. That said, the team is both resilient and determined. Write them off at your own peril.
Ballplayers get hurt. It comes with the turf. But local fans can’t help but take what happened to Hudson a little more personally than most. Many remember his years at Glenwood, CVCC and Auburn. As an Oakland Athletic, he gave us a good (and rare) reason to root for a Left Coast team. We were elated when the Braves acquired him in 2005 because our local hero was, well, local again. Known as one of baseball’s genuine good guys, Hudson has no shortage of fans, but none like the ones here. We knew him first. He’s one of our own.
As baseball rolls toward October, there are plenty of games left to play. And, yes, it’s going to be strange not seeing Number 15 on the mound for Atlanta, but we’ll adapt. We always do. In the meantime, here’s to a complete recovery for Tim Hudson and continued success for the rest of his team. After all, this is baseball. Down doesn’t always mean out. And even when you’re out, things are never really final