Tim Hudson puts his hands on his head Wednesday as he tries to cope with the pain of breaking his ankle during the Braves’ 8-2 victory against the New York Mets.
ATLANTA — What had been a splendid night for Tim Hudson and the Braves took an awful turn in the eighth inning Wednesday when the veteran pitcher broke his right ankle on a play at first base during a 8-2 win against the New York Mets.
Hudson was pitching a four-hit shutout when the gruesome injury occurred. Eric Young, trying to beat a throw to first base on a groundout, stepped on Hudson's leg just above the ankle, rolling his ankle inward all the way to the ground.
Hudson held on to the ball for the out and hopped a couple of times before falling to the ground in agony. X-rays taken at Citi Field showed the fracture, and Hudson will have season-ending surgery in Atlanta once the swelling goes down.
“It's terrible,” said second baseman Dan Uggla, who hit one of the Braves' three home runs, but was in a solemn mood afterward like the rest of his teammates. “That's a big blow. Huddy is such a leader on the field and in the clubhouse, and in the dugout when he's not pitching, so this is a tough one.”
Hudson, 38, was attended to by trainers and EMS worker for about 10 minutes before being strapped on a backboard and placed on a motorized cart. He was driven off the field, the cart traveling directly in front of the visitor's dugout on the third-base side, a few feet in front of concerned teammates standing on the top step.
Catcher Brian McCann was asked about Hudson's importance to the Braves.
“He's huge,” McCann said. “I mean, he's the veteran presence around here that people go to. It's Tim Hudson. The guy's got 200 wins, and best teammate you're ever going to have. Everybody in here feels bad for him.”
There were two runners on base and one out when Young hit a grounder that bounced off the chest of first baseman Freddie Freeman, who retrieved it and tossed softly to Hudson, covering on the play.
Hudson had reached back a second time with his foot to make sure he made the tag, and his foot was more than halfway across the base when Young, already in the air on his final lunging last step to the base, stepped on Hudson's leg above the ankle while running full speed.
“There was nowhere for EY to go, nothing he could do,” Braves manager Freddie Gonzalez said.
Added Uggla: “I saw them get tangled up. I was just hoping he Charley-horsed him or something. I didn't see the extent of it. Once I saw Huddy's reaction, I was like, ‘Oh, no. This isn't good ... ’
“He was kind of in disbelief, obviously in a lot of pain. You could see, just the thoughts going through his head, ‘This can't be happening .... This is unbelievable.’ That sort of thing. I know he was in a lot of pain.”
Gonzalez and trainers ran to Hudson as he lay on the field just inside the first-base line, while Young appeared distraught as he stood near Hudson, fighting to hold back tears.
“I'm hustling down the line like I always do, going for the base,” Young said. “I saw his foot, as I'm going for the base, right there in the middle. As I came down, I knew I didn't get any of the base. I know I got all of his foot. I pretty much knew it was probably broke right as I did it, and that's why I sprinted right back to him and tried to console him as much as I could and apologize.”
Gonzalez said: “He kept telling Timmy, 'I'm sorry, it wasn't on purpose or anything.' And Timmy was telling him, 'No, I know, it's just an accident.’ ”
Freeman said losing Hudson, quite simply, “sucks.”
“I didn't see it,” Freeman said. “I flipped (the ball to Hudson) and spun. Once I turned around he was already on the ground. I didn't see it, and I don't want to see it. I heard the reaction from the crowd.
“It just sucks. That was one of the best games I've ever seen him pitch. To have that happen, it's terrible.”
There was an audible groan from fans when a replay showed the grotesque injury on the stadium video board, and Hudson got an ovation as he was carted off the field.
“That's all that was on my mind the rest of the game, was how he was doing,” McCann said. “You think about his family that was here in the stands, watching that. We won, but it's a tough night.”
Hudson, who turned 38 this month, is in the option year of his contract and will be eligible for free agency after the season. The Alabama native and former Auburn standout has overcome major back and Tommy John elbow surgery during his nine-year career with the Braves, and he's their only starting pitcher with postseason experience, other than Kris Medlen's start in last year's Wild Card game.
The Braves could look to add a veteran starter before the July 31 trade deadline, or go with what they have. They're one of the few teams with enough pitching depth to potentially cover such a loss without making a trade, although it might be a bit risky to go to a postseason series without playoff-tested starters in the rotation.
Brandon Beachy, 13 months removed from Tommy John surgery, pitched well again for Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday night in what was probably going to be his last or next-to-last rehab start even before Hudson was injured.
Beachy could slip into Hudson's rotation spot, or the Braves could keep rookie left-hander Alex Wood in the rotation after Paul Maholm returns from a DL stint for a sprained wrist.
Wood started Maholm's place in Thursday's series finale.