After several consecutive shaky starts, it was great to see Hudson pitch a gem last night. He was Avery-esque in the early innings, allowing two runners on in each of the first three innings. I listened to the first few innings while doing a 4.2 mile run and it seemed like each top-half inning took forever and a day because Hudson was allowing the lead-off men on and was then pitching deep into counts from the stretch. After three innings, it was a miracle that the game was scoreless and it looked like Hudson was going to have a start similar to Smoltz's Sunday effort, but all of a sudden, he turned himself around. The movement on his pitches was great, even in the early innings, and once he started to locate better after the third inning, the Mets could do nothing but ground the ball to the Braves' infielders. Hudson was dominant as the game went on and could have thrown a complete game shutout if not for all of the early pitches. He still only threw 105 pitches in eight innings after throwing 53 pitches in the first three.
1. The Turner South crew did a very good job highlighting the fact that Hudson's herky-jerky delivery leaves him in poor fielding position, unlike Tom Glavine. Given that Hudson is now a groundball pitcher, this is something of a concern, although it helps to have a SS with Furcal's range behind him. Hudson with Derek Jeter behind him would be a problem. He'd be fine with weak outfielders behind him because he gives up nothing in the air. If you want a recipe for allowing baserunners without allowing runs, keeping the ball on the ground is a good start.
2. Oddly enough, Johnny Estrada, who did not play with the Braves during the Glavine era, had the best approach at the plate. He was the one guy who waited on outside pitches and then lined them to right field. Raul Mondesi, on the other hand, couldn't figure this out, although he did score the team's first run because he made the mistake to trying to pull Glavine's change-up and ended up hitting a perfect swinging bunt. And speaking of pulling the ball, why isn't Julio Franco hitting to the opposite field anymore? Are pitchers going inside on him exclusively?
3. Mike Piazza is either hurt or done. His bat isn't nearly as quick as it used to be. He terrified me more than any other hitter in baseball, but I think he's hit the wall as many catchers do in their 30s.
4. Chris Reitsma, having only thrown one inning in the past week, looked terrific in the 9th. His curve ball, in particular, was very impressive. Hopefully, his batteries have been recharged.
5. Shouldn't official scorers have discretion in awarding sacrifice hits? For instance, in the first inning last night, Jose Reyes led off with an infield single and Miguel Cairo then immediately "sacrificed" him to second. Why shouldn't he be charged with an out in that instance? He gave up a free out to a pitcher who struggled to get anyone out in the first three innings. He did so on the first pitch, which deprived Reyes of the chance to steal second and also kept Hudson from having to throw extra pitches. He did so with Franco holding Reyes on and therefore with a gap in the right side of the defense. The bunt reduced the chance of a big inning. Statistically, a team's expected scoring in an inning is lower with a runner on second and one out as compared to a runner on first and no outs. Given all of that, why shouldn't Cairo be charged with an out for his bunt? Willie Randolph moaned after the game that the Mets missed their chances early. Well, you had a hand in that, Willie.