Hudson excited about Game 1 start
Atlanta right-hander will face Pettitte in NLDS opener
ATLANTA -- Tim Hudson envisioned pitching for Atlanta in the postseason long before manager Bobby Cox officially tapped him to start Wednesday's Game 1 of the National League Division Series with Houston at Turner Field.
When Hudson was dealt to the Braves from the A's last Dec. 16, he knew he was going to a playoff-caliber club. Now, the 30-year-old who grew up rooting for Atlanta from his home in Phenix City, Ala., is taking the ball first in the Braves' quest to win a World Series title 10 years since their last championship.
"Any time you think about Atlanta Braves baseball, you think about the postseason and success," Hudson said. "Coming over here, I knew that they were going to have a shot to do something special. It's been a little bit of a roller-coaster ride this year, but we're here right now. We feel like we have a good team that's going to be able to go out there and win and put up a championship for the city of Atlanta."
The road to the World Series will be tough, especially with the Wild Card-winning Astros able to roll out three of the top starters in the game.
No stranger to big games, or the postseason, Hudson competed in the American League Division Series four times while with the A's.
On Wednesday, he draws a difficult assignment against arguably the best pitcher in the league in the second half, left-hander Andy Pettitte.
"I'm excited about being here in an organization that I grew up rooting for," Hudson said. "I'm excited about being an Atlanta Brave and pitching in Game 1."
Hudson went 14-9 with a 3.52 ERA in his first season with the Braves. He made 29 starts and logged 192 innings. Pettitte was 17-9 with a 2.39 ERA, compiling 222 1/3 innings.
Before deciding on Hudson, the Braves went back-and-forth on the Game 1 starter. Cox discussed the matter with John Smoltz, who went 14-7 with a 3.06 ERA in the regular season.
Starting off with Smoltz was strongly considered, but the veteran's right shoulder is a bit fatigued after compiling 229 2/3 innings in 33 starts.
Smoltz is the all-time wins leader in the postseason with a 14-4 record. Ironically, Pettitte is right behind him with a 13-8 overall mark.
Hudson actually was informed he would get the start Wednesday when the Braves' plane landed Sunday night in Atlanta after the team completed the regular season at Florida.
Cox said he is confident that Smoltz will be fine, but with full confidence in Hudson, he is going this route. With Hudson going in Game 1, he also would be available to start a decisive Game 5, should the series go the distance.
Smoltz, meanwhile, will start Game 2 on Thursday against Roger Clemens.
Cox has no reservations going with Hudson perhaps twice in the best-of-five series.
During the regular season, Hudson squared off against Clemens in a classic pitchers' duel at Houston on April 18. In a no-decision, Hudson threw nine shutout innings, allowing four hits while striking out nine. Clemens tossed seven scoreless innings in a game the Braves won in extra innings.
"He's a No. 1 pitcher, there is no doubt about that," Cox said of Hudson. "He can be anybody's No. 1 in baseball -- certainly a No. 2 on a lot of teams, too. He's a team leader, too. He has a lot of fun around the clubhouse. He's energetic in not only his ballgames but other ballgames. He's one of our big cheerleaders."
Smoltz, a leader who is 6-0 overall in the NLDS, fully believes Hudson can dominate in the playoffs.
"I'm glad he's got a lot of confidence in me," Hudson said. "You want your teammates to have confidence in you when you get out on the mound. I feel like I'm going to win every game that I'm going to pitch, whether it's postseason or regular season or whatever. I feel like you have to go out there with confidence and expect to win. You are not going to go out and win every game you pitch in the regular season, but I feel I can go out there and give us a chance to win.
"Hopefully, we can eliminate the small mental errors, and we can go out there and play the game hard, and play the game right. Just stay away from the little things that cause you to lose games in a short series. That's key in playoff baseball."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.