The Braves have 16 games remaining in the 2012 regular season. They have a comfortable seven-game lead on St. Louis and Los Angeles in the Wildcard race. If the season ended today, Atlanta would host either the Cardinals or Dodgers on Friday, October 5 at Turner Field. If there is a tie for the second Wildcard spot, those two teams would have to play a game on Thursday, October 4 to determine which team would travel to Atlanta the very next day.
This is obviously a new format, so there will be a lot to learn by teams as to how to prepare for the do-or-die game. If the Braves coast into that top spot, they do have a luxury of preparing for that game, without the pressure of having to win to get in. And from the looks of things, the Braves might have already set the schedule for the rotation.
If the current rotation holds its schedule for the rest of the season, Tim Hudson would be the next pitching in line in the rotation to pitch in the do-or-die game on October 5. He's the veteran of the staff. He's won 14 games this season. So it makes sense that would be Atlanta's choice to pitch in that must-win game.
Here is a look at the remaining schedule, and how it would fall into place for Hudson to be the starter.
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|09/16/12||vs. Washington||Mike Minor|
|09/17/12||at Miami||Tim Hudson|
|09/18/12||at Miami||Paul Maholm|
|09/19/12||at Miami||Kris Medlen|
|09/21/12||at Philadelphia||Tommy Hanson|
|09/22/12||at Philadelphia||Mike Minor|
|09/23/12||at Philadelphia||Tim Hudson|
|09/25/12||vs. Miami||Paul Maholm|
|09/26/12||vs. Miami||Kris Medlen|
|09/27/12||vs. Miami||Tommy Hanson|
|09/28/12||vs. NY Mets||Mike Minor|
|09/29/12||vs. NY Mets||Tim Hudson|
|09/30/12||vs. NY Mets||Paul Maholm|
|10/01/12||at Pittsburgh||Kris Medlen|
|10/02/12||at Pittsburgh||Tommy Hanson|
|10/03/12||at Pittsburgh||Mike Minor|
|10/05/12||PLAY-IN GAME||Tim Hudson|
|10/07/12||Game 1 Div. Series|
So if Hudson is, in fact, the pitcher the Braves want to have ready for that play-in game, the next question revolves around how the rotation would be set if they advance to the Division Series.
They could obviously come back with Kris Medlen for Game One, which would be in Atlanta and at least right now would be against Washington (Nationals have a 2.5 game lead on Cincinnati for the best record). Medlen would have a full five days rest if he went on Sunday, October 7.
Then the Braves might decide to go with Mike Minor for Game Two, considering he is the hottest pitching on the staff after Medlen. Minor has pitched two games this season against the Nationals. He's 1-0 with a 7.20 ERA. Minor has also done better at Turner Field (3.61 ERA) than on the road (5.31). So that might be a good reason to have Minor go in game two in Atlanta.
When the series moved to Washington, you could come back with Hudson on four days rest. Game Three will be pivotal, of course, so it might be perfect to have the veteran back on the mound.
Then, depending on the status of the series, the Braves could come back with Medlen in Game Four on three days rest of with either Paul Maholm or Tommy Hanson.
This is something the Braves have probably already planned for, but it will be interesting to see, particularly with the new format, how Atlanta arranges its rotation as we get closer to October.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com . Follow Bill on twitter @BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .