Hudson nearly plays left in 19-inning game
With Braves' bench empty in extras, right-hander next in line
ATLANTA -- The Braves and their fans may have been the only ones happy with home-plate umpire Jerry Meals' controversial call in the 19th inning of a 4-3 win over the Pirates that lasted into the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Well, maybe everyone except Tim Hudson.
If the Braves pitcher had his way, the two clubs battling for postseason berths might still be playing. Whatever it takes for the former two-way star at Auburn University to get in the game, right?
"We were all ripping on Huddy the whole game," catcher David Ross said. "He had on his spikes and batting gloves from, like, the ninth inning on. He was annoying me every time I walked by. I was like, 'You are not getting in this game.'"
The Braves right-hander almost got his chance.
Both clubs had already exhausted their respective benches well before the 19th inning rolled along, as only one Pirates reliever and both clubs' starting pitchers were unused. And the Braves faced potential disaster twice.
The first came when second baseman Dan Uggla flirted with an ejection after arguing his looking strikeout in the 10th. Hours later, catcher David Ross -- in the game for the injured Brian McCann -- was hit on the side of his mask by a bat in the 18th and looked, at least initially, like he may have to leave the game.
Had Uggla been ejected, manager Fredi Gonzalez said he likely would have moved left fielder Martin Prado to second and placed Hudson in left.
"That could have gotten ugly," Gonzalez said. "Huddy might have been the only one going, 'Go get 'em, Danny!' Huddy wanted to hit bad. He would have been the guy."
Other pitchers were also considered, however. Fellow starters Brandon Beachy was an option thanks to his athletic abilities.
"We were all kidding around like, 'What pitcher is the best athlete?'" Ross said. "I said, 'Beachy is a pretty good athlete. He played third.' Huddy looked at me like, 'Come on, dude.' I said, 'You're an old man.' He goes, 'I just play the old man role so I don't have to do anything.'"
That said, Gonzalez was under the impression that Uggla -- and any other player -- would have a fairly long leash thanks to the empty benches.
"The umpires, at that point, they know," he said. "They've got the scorecard. The only guys that weren't scratched off were the four starters on the bottom on both sides."
Hudson was eager to enter the game but figured that he wouldn't need much preparation before he entered.
"I said, 'Huddy, have you played catch yet?' He said, 'Nah, I'll get loose when I get out there,'" Ross recalled. "I'm like, 'Dude, you're a pitcher. If there is a play at the plate, you're going to have to throw it out. Your adrenaline is going to want you to throw it out, and then you'll blow [your arm] out.'"
So what would have happened had Ross departed in the 18th? Gonzalez shuddered when asked. The Braves' emergency catcher, Brooks Conrad, had already been used as a pinch-hitter.
Ross figured they might have moved Julio Lugo -- all 175 pounds of him -- behind the plate.
And on the mound? Gonzalez said that Scott Proctor, the winning pitcher, would have gone one more inning before Thursday starter Derek Lowe entered. Lowe had gone to the clubhouse late in the game to begin preparations.
But Gonzalez wasn't short on other volunteers.
"[Freddie] Freeman wanted to volunteer to pitch," he said. "I said, 'No.'"
Chris Cox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.