Tim Hudson and John Smoltz. Could the Phillies have asked for a worse pairing in their most important series in recent memory? In order to avoid another winter spent lamenting the chances that got away during the past six months, the Phillies have to beat Hudson tonight and then Smoltz tomorrow. Impossible? Maybe. Then again, maybe not. The Phillies do have the top offense in the league, afterall. Can a good offense beat good pitching? The Phillies better hope so. After all, Hudson might get a Cy Young vote or two. At 16-9 with 3.34 ERA, Hudson has been the team’s co-ace with Smoltz and ranks in the top 10 in the league in wins (5th), innings pitched (3rd), ERA (8th), WHIP (8th) and winning percentage (10th). Regardless, the Phillies have had some success against Hudson this season, including tuning him up for five runs and 11 hits in five innings in the game in which the Phillies took a six-run lead into the eighth inning. Yeah, that game. Smoltz, meanwhile, is one of the greatest big-game pitchers in recent baseball history. In 1991 he was one of the starting pitchers in the greatest game I had ever watched and, truth be told, is putting the finishing touches on a Hall-of-Fame career. Better yet, Smoltz is the last of a dying breed of pitcher. When he goes to the mound he’s going to bring the heat and a nasty slider every time. Fascinatingly, Smoltz has been doing the same way since 1989. Since then it has been a pile of 200-plus innings per season, tons of strikeouts a short detour as the best closer in the game all mixed in with 24 playoff series. Yep, that’s the guy the Phillies have to get past if they want to make it to the playoffs. To counter that, the Phillies will send Kyle Lohse to the mound tonight fresh off a start and a relief appearance in Washington last weekend. Forebodingly, Lohse’s one-inning relieve stint was half as long as his start. Kyle Kendrick will face Smoltz on Thursday night, which should be interesting for a lot of reasons. The biggest facet is that Smoltz broke into the big leagues when he was 21 after a quick ascent through the minors, kind of like Kendrick. The other point of interest is that when Smoltz broke in to the majors in 1988, Kendrick was a month away from turning four-years old. Even more interesting than those nuggets is the dichotomy of the pitching styles. Smoltz is a power pitcher who racks up the strikeouts. Kendrick is a sinkerballer, who thrives on grounders and by throwing strikes. Needless to say, it should be an interesting two days. Thanks for pointing out the obvious, huh? Oh wait, there’s more where that came from: Charlie Manuel: “Our team knows what they have to do. We've been coming back all year, scratching and clawing. We'll keep playing.” Bobby Cox: “We know what we have to do. We have to win. We'll give it our best shot.” Chase Utley: “Every game we approach the same way. We try to win. There's no extra pressure added.” Jimmy Rollins: “We’ve been in this situation for a long time. We have five games left (and) we have to win five games.” No, I don’t think they got together to rehearse the answers beforehand. *** For those wondering (and I know you are), I am not off the Floyd beat. For now I’m a little preoccupied with the baseball pennant race and a little bit of music writing. As soon as the work load dissipates a bit, I hope to dive into the post-ruling fray with a new story or two. In the interim, check out Trust But Verify for everything Floyd.