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Hudson gets ball in elimination game

Hudson to take hill in elimination game

HOUSTON -- Tim Hudson is no stranger to pitching on short rest. The confident right-hander just hopes for a similar result to the last time he took the ball on three days' rest.

The Braves certainly are banking on Hudson to step up with the season now on the line.

After dropping a 7-3 decision to the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Saturday night, manager Bobby Cox named Hudson his Game 4 starter with the Braves facing elimination in the best-of-five series.

Once before this year, Hudson worked on three days' rest. What was on the line then certainly doesn't match the stakes the right-hander faces now.

Still, that effort showed Hudson's body is able to respond on short notice. On May 24 at Turner Field, Hudson tossed eight scoreless innings, tossing 105 pitches, in Atlanta's 4-0 win over the Mets.

"To be honest with you, I don't think it's that big a deal," Hudson said of throwing on three days' rest. "You have to adjust your workouts and preparation in between starts. But I don't have a problem with it."

There isn't much time to ponder the predicament with the season in the balance.

From the start of the series, Cox kept his Game 4 options open. He contemplated going with either John Thomson or Horacio Ramirez. There was speculation that had the Braves won Saturday and taken a 2-1 series lead, Thomson would have been the Sunday afternoon starter.

Cox, however, wasn't giving that possibility serious thought.

"Even if we won tonight, I was still leaning that way," Cox said of going with Hudson.

Hudson got the nod in Game 1 on Wednesday, suffering the loss in an outing in which he lacked command. In 6 2/3 innings, he gave up five runs on seven hits with five walks and five strikeouts. The right-hander threw 99 pitches, but wasn't at his best.

"Any time I have an outing similar to that, I always look forward to getting back out there, putting it behind me and making better pitches," Hudson said. "It's a big game, obviously -- the biggest game of the year. I'm glad they have confidence in me to go out there and try to get us back to Atlanta."

Aware that pitching Game 4 was an option, Hudson made provisions by altering his between-start workouts. To not tax his arm, he didn't throw as much on the side or in the bullpen.

"I'm fine with it. I feel pretty healthy," Hudson said. "I did it one time before during the year; I threw pretty well. I'm not worried about the physical limitations of coming back early. I feel strong. It's just a matter of going out and making adjustments from my last outing."

Ideally, the Braves would have preferred to not have to risk going with Hudson and possibly Smoltz on short rest. But the demands of the playoffs sway the way managers use their starters.

"I wish I didn't have to pitch. But the way the scenario is, we've kind of got our backs to the wall," Hudson said. "I want to be out there if something is on the line. I feel like I should be out there to give us a good chance to win."

In his first season with the Braves, Hudson is no stranger to the playoffs, having been through the experiences before with the A's.

"Obviously, playoff baseball, the games are always close," Hudson said. "They are always tight and they seem to always go down to the wire. A lot of them going the distance, five games. They're never easy. In Oakland, we always had these types of games."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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