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Outcomes in baseball are often decided by timing and/or inches. Unfortunately for Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Tim Hudson, both were working against him on Wednesday night when he suffered a fractured right ankle while covering first base during their 8-2 victory.
The play happened in the eighth inning of a game Hudson had dominated up to that point. Through 7 1/3 innings, the New York Mets had managed only four hits and three walks, and had yet to crack the scoreboard against the 38-year-old right-hander. That's when Eric Young Jr. pulled a sharp grounder to first baseman Freddie Freeman that he struggled to corral initially, and the entire mood changed for the Braves as the rest of the play unfolded.
With Young's elite speed moving up the line, the margin for error is slim. Hudson had to cover the bag for Atlanta to have any chance at getting the out. He was able to get there in time, but his right foot ended up in a very vulnerable position atop the bag as Young crossed. The result was Young stepping directly on his leg above the ankle, followed by the the sickening visual of his ankle bending in a very unnatural manner.
I think Young's immediate reaction to the play told you all you needed to know. He knew it was bad right away, and he obviously felt awful about his role. To the credit of several Braves, most noticeably second baseman Dan Uggla and manager Fredi Gonzalez, they were quick to console Young after checking on Hudson. There was no intent to injure and the Young's effort wasn't reckless, it was simply two players going hard with an outcome that nobody in the stadium felt good about witnessing.
The worst was feared and expected. Not long after the game, the Braves confirmed it via their official Twitter. The ankle was fractured, surgery will be required once the swelling goes down, and the Braves will be without a key member of their starting rotation the rest of the regular season and postseason.
With the trade deadline quickly approaching, this could mean the Braves will be in the market for some insurance. They're also anticipating getting Brandon Beachy back very soon. That could help, but there are no guarantees coming off Tommy John surgery, and there's also no replacing Hudson's experience from within. That means the road for the Braves just became a lot more difficult, and their depth and resilience will continue to be tested as they hope to hang on in the National League East.