|Tim Hudson||Brandon Backe|
14 - 9, 3.52
10 - 8, 4.76
So it looks to me as if Bobby Cox is panicking--and compromising his team's chances of winning this series--by bringing Hudson back on short rest today.
Hudson may even pitch well. They ran him out on 3 days rest May 24 vs. the Mets, and he threw 19 ground balls in eight innings while giving up 6 hits and no runs to the Mets. And I certainly wouldn't suggest that the oblique strain which forced him to go on the DL three weeks later on June 16 had anything to do with the shortened rest period.
I will, however, suggest that the intensity level in a playoff game on the road is slightly higher than that of a Tuesday night game in May at Turner.
Twice before, Hudson had been started on short rest in the playoffs, and both times it ended badly for the Oakland A's. In 2002, he went 3-1/3 innings, and gave up seven runs against the Twins. Coincidentally, his series ERA going into that second game against Minnesota was 6.75, just as it stands now, coming into today's game.
In 2003 vs. the Red Sox, Hudson was tried again on short rest, and that time he had to leave after only one inning with yet another strained oblique.
But again, Hudson may pitch well. His ground ball to flyball in the first game was 2 - 1, which is a good sign for him. But my criticism of Cox is based more on how he's affecting a potential game five. Instead of having the Braves best available pitcher Hudson facing the Astros' best--Pettitte--you'll have Horacio Ramirez or John Thomson doing so.
Whereas a Ramirez-Backe matchup, or a Thomson-Backe matchup, would look pretty good to the Bravos, and you'd still have Hudson in the hole to try and take care of Andy.
Alright, enough about the Braves. What chance do we have that Brandon Backe will pitch well? His numbers were not good in his last regular season outing against the Cardinals. But although he did give up a home run to Reggie Sanders, the key hits in that game were *two* doubles he gave up to Chris Carpenter. Backe left the game in trouble, but when he did, other than the Sanders solo shot, the only runs that had scored off him had been scored by Carpenter. (Gallo then allowed his two inherited runners to score, and Backe was charged with two additional runs.)
Backe, for the most part, did keep the ball down in that game, and he got two double plays and four additonal ground outs. The Astros made an error behind him, which was partially to blame for one off the Carpenter runs, and furthermore, the Cards reached twice on infield singles.
Plus, although he only struck out two, Brandon only walked two, and as you know, the walk is the single biggest thing that's gonna beat him.
So, although the line score wasn't good for Backe, it's also kind of misleading.
He pitched OK at St. Louis, I can go with that, and of course, he pitched great the start before at Pittsburgh. And the start before that, at home vs. Milwaukee.
I like that Backe pitched a trouble-free inning Thursday, removing some of the playoff jitters from the equation for the highly excitable Backe.
So call me cautiously optimistic, as it seems I always am when Brandon starts.