Originally created 09/23/05

Cox's stratgey is questioned



ATLANTA - It wasn't the dreaded blown-save game that had become a running motif in disappointing Braves losses in the past few weeks. But it felt that way.

The ghost town of a home clubhouse after a 4-0 loss Thursday to Philadelphia signified that much. So did Chipper Jones, often the team's mouthpiece, shuffling through and saying he had no comment on the day's demise.

Atlanta rookie Ryan Langerhans stood on third with one out in the eighth in a scoreless game.

The time to pinch hit for starter Tim Hudson came and went, and so did the Braves' shot at getting Langerhans in with the go-ahead run.

Closer Kyle Farnsworth was available and warming up, and the expanded late-season roster had plenty of bench options, including left-handed Todd Hollandsworth or switch-hitting Johnny Estrada or Wilson Betemit.

Lifting Hudson, who had thrown 103 pitches - 99 if you don't count an intentional walk, as manager Bobby Cox suggested - seemed likely to the opposition.

"I thought they would have pinch hit," said Phillies starter Jon Lieber, who went eight scoreless to get the win. "I guess they had a plan."

Apparently it was to have the .153-hitting Hudson take the first pitch, Cox said, and then more than likely try a squeeze bunt on the second.

"He can hit," Cox said. "And he can squeeze, too."

Hudson had just four sacrifice bunts - one was a squeeze - in 66 plate appearances this year.

Regardless, the strategy was nuked quickly when Hudson swung at the first pitch from Lieber and topped it a foot in front of the plate for an easy 2-3 putout.

"It was just a bad move, a bad decision on my part. I'll never second-guess anything the Skipper does," said Hudson, who acknowledged just a month ago he was petrified of getting hit when trying to bunt.

"We've just got to go out there and execute and do the best job that we can whenever we're asked to go up in certain situations. In that situation, I was just horrible."

ON DECK: John Smoltz will start at 7:35 tonight (TBS) at Turner Field against the Marlins' Josh Beckett (15-8, 3.51).

Smoltz (14-7, 3.02) was scheduled to pitch this past Wednesday, but shoulder stiffness caused him to decide to rest for a couple of days.

Reach Travis Haney at travis.haney@morris.com.