Hudson proved to be Mr. Everything
On his way home last night, Tim Hudson stopped at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and helped Delta employees evacuate passengers from that Los Angeles-bound plane that had to return to Atlanta because of engine trouble. He also volunteered to fly the new plane, but was told he had done far too much over the previous few hours.
OK, so Hudson might have actually been sleeping by the time the plane returned during the early morning hours. But could you blame him? He had spent the previous few hours basically doing everything for the Braves in their 2-0 win over the Blue Jays.
Hudson accounted for all of the scoring with a two-run, seventh-inning homer and also ended three outs shy of notching his second one-hit shutout of the season. But his stellar mound effort was still preserved by Craig Kimbrel, who struck out the only three batters he faced to notch his 20th save — moving him within six of the matching MLB’s rookie record (Jonathan Papelbon in 2006) for saves before the All-Star break.
Kimbrel was simply filthy while tearing through the heart of the Blue Jays’ lineup in a span of just 15 pitches. But as Blue Jays’ starter Ricky Romero said, last night belonged to Hudson, whose only previous career homer was hit against the Cardinals’ Kyle Lohse on Sept. 12, 2009.
According to MLB Productions senior researcher Roger Schlueter, Hudson became just the 13th pitcher starter since 1919 to throw at least eight innings in a team shutout and account for all of his team’s runs with a home run (or a pair of home runs).
Dating back to his 1999 debut, Hudson and Mark Buehrle are the only Major League pitchers to have allowed one hit and recorded a shutout in three separate regular season games. Hudson was bidding for his fourth career one-hit shutout before the ninth began with his only walk of the night and Yunel Escobar’s infield single.
While Hudson might not have matched the one-hit shutout he notched against the Brewers on May 4, he was downright dominant again. He recorded 15 groundball outs and a season-high eight strikeouts. The only two balls the Blue Jays hit out of the infield against him came in the second inning via a J.P. Arencibia single and Jayson Nix flyout.
As Hudson completed this masterpiece, it was even harder to believe he had gone 2-14 with a 6.75 ERA in the previous 18 Interleague starts he had made since joining the Braves in 2005.
From livid to celebratory in a second: While covering games, I usually only look at the television feed to see a replay of a close pitch or close call. Thus I want to thank Braves fan Bruce Mulkey for tweeting me last night to ask David Ross why he was yelling in the dugout just before Hudson hit his first-pitch homer into the seats.
It seemed quite odd that when Ross was thrown out so easily after Diory Hernandez hit his one-out chopper directly to a drawn-in Yunel Escobar. But when told television cameras caught him yelling, Ross provided some clarity by essentially saying Hernandez missed the squeeze sign.
“We are a team that has to do the little things especially now when we’ve got so many guys banged up and hurt,” Ross said. “We’ve got to do the little things like get guys over. We can’t miss signs. We missed a sign and I was upset about it. I just wanted to voice my opinion and I hope it doesn’t happen again.”
When Ross speaks, the players listen. He certainly drawn more deserved praise than any other backup catcher I can ever remember. He has some productive years left as a backup catcher. But it won’t be long before you see him sitting in a dugout serving as a Major League manager. He’s going to be a good one.
Hudson and Ross share a bond that goes back to when they were helping Auburn reach the College World Series in 1997. They are hilarious in the cluhouse and form a sensational battery on the field.
In the three games he’s pitched with Ross behind the plate this year, Hudson has posted a 0.78 ERA and limited opponents to a .125 batting average. In the 12 games he has pitched with Brian McCann behind the dish, he has posted a 4.69 ERA and allowed opponents to hit .259.
Before you get too excited about the need for Ross to be Hudson’s personal catcher remember this is a VERY small sample size that is being taken in a year when Hudson’s mechanics have been very inconsistent. When he has been able to drop and drive like he did last night, he has been pretty good regardless of who is behind the plate.
In the 25 games he pitched with McCann behind the plate last year, Hudson posted a 2.38 ERA and allowed opponents to hit .237. With Ross behind the plate (11 games) , he posted a 2.73 ERA and limited opponents to a .210 batting average.