Game 1 of this National League Division Series confirmed the Atlanta Braves’ worst fears … and then some.
Going in, the Braves knew they lacked a playoff-worthy bullpen. All season, Atlanta’s relievers had been historically bad, at least dating to when the franchise launched its relentless dynasty, which has produced 14 consecutive division titles, in 1991. They had suffered a cumulative 29 losses, posted a 4.74 ERA and, maybe worst of all, blown 24 saves.
But manager Bobby Cox and everybody else in the home clubhouse was hoping, perhaps even assuming, that the Braves’ starting pitchers were formidable enough to prevent another sudden, inglorious exit from the postseason. That was simply going to have to be the case, tonight’s Atlanta starter, John Smoltz, admitted before the Astros’ 10-5 romp.
“Your starters dictate momentum,” Smoltz said. “You can talk about what our bullpen is or isn’t, (but) it can be a moot point if you don’t do the things early that you have to do as a starting pitcher.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Tim Hudson definitely didn’t. In his National League playoff debut, the former Oakland ace trudged off trailing 5-3 after 6 2/3 shaky innings, making the mess that followed as moot as moot gets.