To be considered one of the best, one must perform well at every opportunity or doubt starts creeping in. Tim Hudson was unquestionably the Giants’ best starter through the first month and a half of the season, but it had been 16 days since his last quality start. Plus, he’s 38 and was dealing with soreness in the same hip that had bothered him in the past. Then there’s the broken ankle he suffered last year that left him wondering whether he’d ever play again. So there were reasons to be slightly concerned.
Emphasis on “slightly.” And after tonight’s 4-0 win over the Cubs, the only Hudson-related item that might concern people over the next few days is whether he can keep this up and make the All-Star team.
After all, his 1.92 ERA is fifth-best in the National League (and MLB) and his WHIP of 0.88 is third in the majors. And it doesn’t take Bill James to see why Hudson’s ERA and WHIP are so low. For the sixth time this season, Hudson pitched seven innings without walking a batter.
“From a command standpoint, this is probably the best I’ve been as far as commanding the strike zone and throwing strikes. Letting the guys behind me make plays,” said Hudson, who got 10 outs via ground balls.
But how has his command peaked at an age where most MLB starting pitchers are well into their second or third careers?
“Smoke and mirrors, man. Smoke and mirrors,” he said before miming a sleight-of-hand gesture, as if he’s built his ace credentials on fooling guys like some street magician. Then Hudson, a postgame comedian (after wins) who tosses in a joke in response to every second or third question he faces, got a little more serious.
“At this point in my career I don’t try to overpower anybody, overthrow or throw through my mechanics. I just try to trust what I have and let it work, let it do its thing. More times than not it’s been good enough to get people out.”
Surprisingly, this was Hudson’s first scoreless outing since April 2, his first in a Giants uniform. I have a hard time remembering any more than three or four runs against him this season, but apparently Hudson has allowed 17 runs, 15 earned. OK, if you say so, “Baseball Reference.”
Not one Cub made it to third base in this game. Afterward, who knows. Two made it to second against Hudson, while Jeremy Affeldt pitched a perfect eighth and Jean Machi followed suit in the ninth.
“Huddy was Huddy,” said Bruce Bochy, and he said it perfectly. When Huddy is Huddy, the Giants win … except those two times when they only scored one run or when winning becomes impossible due to the game getting suspended.
Hudson is as self-deprecating as they come. But after mentioning a couple times how he was “lucky” in a game where he got away with a couple pitches, he described how, in certain ways, his mind has allowed pitching to become easier than before.
“When I was younger, I was concerned with gameplans, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker for me. Whether the gameplan called for it or not, I was going to throw what my strengths were. Now I want to mix it up. I need to mix it up. I’m not throwing 95 like I did when I was younger. It’s all about trying to upset the timing of the hitters,” Hudson said.
And while he’s still dealing with some residual soreness from his surgically repaired ankle, he’s found some ways to keep his arm from barking at him too much, maybe even less than it did when one would think his recovery times were much shorter.
“I’m not going to kill myself on the side, long-toss and try to throw 95 miles per hour. What I have is what I have, and I just want to make sure I have that every fifth day,” he said.
“Physically it’s not as hard as it was when I was younger. When you’re younger, everything was full speed, 100%. By the end of the day it felt like I was beat up. It’s a different kind of hard (now). It’s challenging in a different way.”
More challenging for the opposition, most hitters would probably argue.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my season,” Hudson said. “With a new team, new organization, new teammates. Hopefully they don’t think I’m going to be this good all year.”
— No homers for the Giants tonight, but they came up with a couple more two-out RBI hits. They also flashed some speed, particularly in the fifth when Ehire Adrianza and Angel Pagan each collected an infield single and a stolen base. It was Adrianza’s first hit since May 6.
— “Adrianza had a nice game,” Bochy said. “I want to compliment what he did. It’s been a while since he’s had a start and he did a good job defensively. He got us going that one inning, stole a base when we swung and missed and ended up scoring. That was a big run in that point in the game.”
— Buster Posey had two sac flies, and his swing has looked incrementally better the last couple of days. I’m sensing a breakout soon.
— Whenever you can make a hitter slam his bat into the ground after striking out, you know your stuff is working. Starlin Castro was pretty upset after facing Jean Machi, something we’re seeing an awful lot lately (hitters looking confused/upset/livid after facing Machi — I’m not sure about Castro).
— I asked Hudson about getting to watch Brandon Crawford play defense on a daily basis, since Crawford fielded seven grounders and a popup perfectly.
“It’s been a pleasure. He’s a guy that … he’s much better than I thought he was. Just because I hadn’t seen him a lot. Coming here, and playing with him every day and seeing him in Spring Training, he’s up there with some of the best ones that I’ve played with. I played with a really good one in Atlanta (Andrelton Simmons) and he’s not far behind him. He’s really, really good. He’s fun to watch, man. He’s humble, goes out there and works hard, makes plays. The good ones make the really tough ones look real easy. I think that’s something that he does.”
— Near the end of Hudson’s interview, Madison Bumgarner was giving the universal hand signal to “wrap it up.” Hudson told Bumgarner to get his scooter and ride home. Bumgarner was just fine with that, but there was one problem — reporters around Hudson’s locker and a stray chair blocked the closet holding Bumgarner’s scooter.
— As Bumgarner walked his camo scooter out of the clubhouse, he was talking about how he needed a basket to carry things (like the Snickers bar he shoved into his front pocket). I told him to just make sure he didn’t park it in front of Epic Roasthouse (where Pence left his scooter before it got stolen). Bumgarner said he didn’t plan on leaving his scooter outside under any circumstances. None of the scooter-owning Giants want to follow in Pence’s footsteps on that one.