The Atlanta Braves are going with a six-man rotation for the remainder of the month, and manager Fredi Gonzalez said seniority will have no bearing when picking his five starters for September. If that is truly the case, Tim Hudson may need to rebound quickly from a subpar showing.
Facing the San Diego Padres should help.
Hudson looks to continue his stellar pitching against the Padres and help the Braves avoid losing their third game in a row Tuesday night at Turner Field.
Prior to Monday's series opener, Gonzalez said with Tommy Hanson slated to come off the disabled list Friday and the team getting solid outings from Paul Maholm, Ben Sheets and Kris Medlen, NL wild card-leading Atlanta (66-49) will use six starters for the rest of August to determine who should stay in the rotation for the playoff drive.
"We need to be able to go into September with all of the cylinders hitting and everybody healthy,'' Gonzalez said. "This is one way to keep those guys healthy.''
Mike Minor put together a respectable audition Monday, yielding three runs and scattering nine hits in six innings, but Atlanta managed only five hits in a 4-1 loss. It was the second defeat in as many days for the Braves, who had won 14 of 17.
It seems unlikely Hudson (11-4, 3.77 ERA) would be the one to get demoted, but he did little to help his cause last week.
Against Philadelphia on Wednesday, Hudson allowed a run and two hits through four innings before unraveling. He couldn't protect a five-run lead, getting touched up for five runs in the fifth before exiting with one out in that frame for his second-shortest outing of the season. It was the sixth time he allowed at least four runs in an inning this year.
By contrast, Hudson has permitted four total runs in his last four games against San Diego. He is 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA in his last six starts versus the Padres.
Despite Hudson's shaky outing against the Phillies, Atlanta rallied for a 12-6 victory. The Braves have won Hudson's last seven starts, and the right-hander had a 2.58 ERA in the previous six.
San Diego (52-65) has won seven of eight overall, with Chase Headley carrying the offense.
Headley homered and drove in two runs Monday, and is batting .348 this month with major league highs of seven home runs and 21 RBIs. He is 1 for 11 lifetime against Hudson, though.
While Hudson has typically shut down the Padres, San Diego's Clayton Richard (9-11, 3.79) hasn't enjoyed the same success versus the Braves.
Richard has lost all four of his career starts against Atlanta while posting a 7.36 ERA. Three of those outings have come at Turner Field, where he has an 8.31 ERA and .413 opponent batting average.
Several Braves have given him problems, with Chipper Jones going 6 for 11, Brian McCann 5 for 7 and Freddie Freeman 2 for 3. Those three hitters went a combined 1 for 11 Monday.
Although Richard has had little luck in this series, he's been pitching quite well lately. He tossed a five-hitter in a 2-0 win over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday, improving to 2-0 with a 1.27 ERA in his last three starts. The left-hander, who pitched into the ninth inning for the third time in eight outings, held the Cubs to five singles while striking out five, walking one and hitting a batter.
"I'm glad to get that opportunity to finish it out," said Richard, whose only other shutout came in September 2010.