Hudson was tagged for five runs on seven hits with five walks and a hit batter. Able to capitalize on his mistakes, the Astros rolled to a 10-5 victory at Turner Field.
"Obviously, the performance wasn't too good," Hudson said. "It just took me a little while to make the adjustment."
At times, he was overthrowing. Other times, he felt he hurried his pace. And too often, he was behind hitters and ended up fighting an uphill battle from the first inning on, when Craig Biggio singled to open the game and scored three batters later on Morgan Ensberg's RBI single.
"He was way off his game early," manager Bobby Cox said. "He got it back in around the fifth or sixth inning, [when] he threw pretty darn good. He was just too fired up, I think.
"He was really wanting to pitch a shutout tonight, I think. He just got the ball out of the strike zone. Too many balls."
Of the 99 pitches Hudson threw in 6 2/3 innings, 43 were not in the strike zone.
"I was overthrowing, leaving the rubber a little too quick," Hudson said. "I made the adjustment after the fourth and I started feeling pretty normal after that. Maybe it just took too long to make that adjustment."
So much of Hudson's success spins off his sinker. For whatever reasons, he wasn't able to locate his pitches down in the zone.
"His bread and butter is his sinker," catcher Johnny Estrada said. "He's a power pitcher who comes right at you with fastballs, but he couldn't get that pitch [sinker] down tonight. So we started using other pitches until he could get his fastball down. It wasn't one of his better outings."
The five earned runs are the most Hudson has allowed in eight career postseason appearances, with seven starts. While with the A's, he twice gave up four runs in a playoff game, the last time coming on Oct. 1, 2002, in a loss to the Twins in the Division Series.
The five walks are a postseason high. But they continued a trend that has hampered the right-hander in some late-season starts.
In his last three regular-season starts, Hudson walked 10 in 20 innings. He hadn't been on the mound since Sept. 27 against the Rockies, where he picked up the win in the Braves' division-clinching victory, giving up three runs in six innings with two walks.
The layoff, according to Hudson, wasn't a factor in the high walk count.
"A lot of the walks are pitching around guys, that kind of thing," Hudson said. "I felt pretty good, for the most part. In the second half, my command was pretty good. At the end of the day, it was obviously not nearly where I wanted it to be. It just goes back to making adjustments. I didn't do it. I didn't do it nearly quickly enough."
A crucial sequence came in the seventh inning. Trailing 4-3, Hudson surrendered a leadoff double to Pettitte, who advanced to third on Biggio's sacrifice bunt. After getting Willy Taveras to bounce out to shortstop with the infield in, the Braves gambled by intentionally walking Lance Berkman to get to Ensberg.
Hudson tried to get Ensberg with a cut fastball that flattened. Ensberg swatted the pitch into left field for a key RBI on a night the third baseman drove in five runs.
"I just threw a cutter that was middle-middle," Hudson said. "It was something I was battling with. He got a pitch to hit, hit it, and made us pay for it."
Estrada pointed out the double to Pettitte was costly.
"It just seemed like we were getting more behind than we wanted to," Estrada said. "We made a lot of bad pitches with two strikes; that's not good anytime. Giving up a hit to the pitcher -- those things can't happen in the playoffs."