Originally created 09/23/05

Cox hears something rare at Turner Field - boos



ATLANTA - Bobby Cox is used to getting cheered at Turner Field.

On Thursday, the Atlanta Braves' longtime manager heard boos.

The fans were upset that Cox let pitcher Tim Hudson bat in the bottom of the eighth in a scoreless game, with a runner at third and only one out.

The decision backfired on two fronts. Hudson grounded out weakly in front of the plate - the runner forced to stay at third - then gave up four runs in the ninth for a 4-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Cox defended his decision, saying Hudson was pitching well and is a decent hitter. The Braves also were short-handed in the bullpen, with Chris Reitsma getting the day off.

"Hudson can hit. He can squeeze, too," Cox said. "He could have gone two more innings."

Instead, he swung at Jon Lieber's first pitch, the ball traveling just a few inches in front of the plate. Todd Pratt fielded the ball, made sure Ryan Langerhans stayed at third and easily threw out Hudson.

"There was no decision," Hudson said. "I still felt strong. I still had some gas in my tank. I probably had my worst at-bat ever."

Lieber said he was a "little surprised" to see Hudson come to the plate. "I was expecting a pinch-hitter," the Phillies pitcher said. "They must have had some kind of plan."

Cox was hoping Hudson could work deep into the count, at least raising the possibility of the Braves calling a squeeze bunt.

"The first pitch is going to be off the plate, and he swung at it," Cox said. "You don't want to do that on the first pitch."

Hudson agreed.

"In that situation, I was horrible," the pitcher said. "It was a bad decision on my part."

Hudson got two outs in the ninth, only to get tagged by a pair of pinch-hitters. Michael Tucker singled to left to bring home the first run, and Shane Victorino followed with a three-run homer.

At that point, Cox finally decided to take out Hudson. The crowd heckled the manager - one of the winningest in baseball history - as he emerged from the dugout, and booed even louder when he trotted off the mound after giving the ball to Macay McBride.

The day went much better for Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who made all the right calls. Smiling, he declined to second-guess Cox's decision.

"I'll just let Bobby manage his team," Manuel said. "I've got enough problems with mine."

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PITCHING CHANGE: First, John Smoltz was going to pitch last Tuesday.

Then, he was pushed back to Saturday.

Now, he'll go on Friday.

In the latest episode of As The Smoltz Turns, the Braves' top winner said he felt good enough to pitch in the opener of a three-game series against the Florida Marlins, instead of waiting for the second game.

Smoltz, who's been bothered by a stiff shoulder, probably felt the need to get back to the mound as soon as possible. The Braves are barely above.500 since the beginning of August, their lead in the NL East dropping to four games with nine remaining.

"There should be pressure in every game until the magic number is zero," Smoltz said. "As you draw near it, you have to learn to win baseball games."

John Thomson was bumped from Friday to Saturday, affecting his preparations "a little bit." He said he had to alter his routine to pitch three sessions in the bullpen between starts instead of two.

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GIVE IT TO THE D: Ryan Langerhans has been getting most of the playing time in left field, breaking out of a job-share arrangement with fellow rookie Kelly Johnson.

Braves manager Bobby Cox said Langerhans' superior defense is the reason for his increased playing time.

"He's way over everybody else when it comes to defense," Cox said. "I'm a big defense guy. It helps the pitching. I hate to give that up."