The Atlanta Braves put across two runs in the top of the fifth inning to take a 3-1 lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the rubber match of the series. Starter Tim Hudson usually flourishes with leads and attacks the strike zone with his sinker. It was setting up to be a successful end to a long, tough road trip.
Then, it all went wrong.
The Diamondbacks rallied for four runs in the bottom of the fifth defeat the Braves 5-3 on Wednesday.
Hudson allowed five earned runs on eight hits and two walks in five innings, while striking out four. His ERA ballooned to 5.12 on the 2013 MLB season — the highest of any Braves’ starter.
In 2012, Hudson’s issue was first inning runs, but it has been the middle innings that have derailed his starts this season. On Wednesday, the Diamondbacks scored four in the fifth, and in his last start, the San Francisco Giants scored six runs in the fourth inning. For the season, Hudson has allowed 10 earned runs for a 10.38 ERA in the fourth inning and 11 earned runs for a 15.63 ERA in the fifth inning.
Many sinkerball pitchers strengthen as the game progresses as they get more movement on their pitches. For his career, Hudson has held opponents to a lower batting average (.240) from pitch 76 and up than his first 75 pitches (.250).
However, this has not been the case for Hudson this season. He has a mediocre 4.43 ERA through his first 75 pitches in a game, but then escalates to 8.64 from pitches 76 and on.
To be fair, both the Giants and Diamondbacks had their fair share of infield hits that prolonged the rally. That said, Hudson has clearly not been as effective the second and third times through a lineup this season.
It was a rough ending for Hudson and the Braves on the 10-game road trip. Hudson will need to make the necessary adjustments in the middle innings to salvage his strong starts to games.