Braves starter Tim Hudson was well on his way to his fourth straight win Wednesday night at Citi Field when, with two on and one out in the bottom of the eighth, Mets left fielder Eric Young Jr. hit a ground ball that bounced off the chest of Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman. Hudson dashed over to cover first base, beating Young to the bag for the out. However, Hudson stepped on the far side of the bag with his right foot and Young, racing down the line, stepped on Hudson's right ankle, breaking it and ending the 38-year-old right-hander's season.
For those with the stomach to watch it, here's the gruesome video with the full eight minutes it took the emergency medical staff to attend to Hudson and cart him off the field:
[mlbvideo id="29104225" width="600" height="360" /]
Unfortunate as Hudon's injury is, the Braves are uniquely suited to handle it. Not only do they have the largest division lead in the majors, now a full eight games over the Phillies with the Nationals having slipped into third place, five games below .500, but they also have a starting pitcher ready to return from a year-long injury absence in Brandon Beachy, who turned in a strong six innings for Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday night in what would likely have been his final rehab start anyway following his June 2012 Tommy John surgery.
It's very unlikely that Beachy will pick up where he left off last June, when he had a 2.00 ERA and 0.96 WHIP after 13 starts, but Hudson had been merely league-average this season, hitting the disabled list with an 8-7 record and a 3.97 ERA. Beachy, who is 12-10 with a 3.07 ERA (127 ERA+) in 41 career starts, should be able to replaced Hudson's performance rather easily, assuming his elbow is indeed fully recovered.
Instead, what the Braves lose with the Hudson injury is the opportunity to use Beachy's return to improve their rotation elsewhere. Kris Medlen is 0-3 with an 8.59 ERA over his last three starts, and lefty Paul Maholm just landed on the disabled list himself with a sprained left wrist, which was partially to blame for his own recent struggles (0-3, 10.13 ERA in his last three starts). Left-handed prospect Alex Wood, a second-round draft pick out of the University of Georgia last June who has pitched well out of the Atlanta bullpen since making his major-league debut at the end of May, was already scheduled to take Maholm's start on Thursday. But the injury to Hudson means that Wood will have to hold down Maholm's spot until the veteran is ready to return, rather than yield it to Beachy.
One could argue that the Braves also lose Hudson's veteran leadership. The 27-year-old Medlen is now the team's second-oldest starter, 25-year-old Mike Minor is its second-most experienced (both trailing the injured Maholm), and Medlen, who was a controversial choice to start last year's wild-card game over Hudson, is the only remaining Braves starter with postseason experience. However, Hudson, who picked up his 200th win earlier this year, should remain with the team as, effectively, an extra pitching coach. Beachy, who posted a 3.00 ERA in seven Triple-A starts during his rehab assignment but also walked 5.4 men per nine innings in those seven games, should take Hudson's next turn in the rotation Monday at home against the Rockies.