Is Tim Hudson really 38? It sure didn’t seem like it on Wednesday night during a neat and tidy 3-2 victory over the San Diego Padres that sends the Giants on the road with a 17-11 record, first place in the National League West, and a clear April ace.
According to the Giants, Hudson joined Johnny Cueto and Adam Wainwright as the only pitchers in the majors to go seven innings in each of their first six starts. He didn’t walk anyone for the fifth time this season, and finished one strike away from pitching his first complete game since shutting out the Marlins on June 5, 2012.
“If you had to watch a game and say this is how you’d want to pitch, tonight’s game would’ve been that,” said Bruce Bochy, who made a beeline for the mound after Yasmani Grandal put a 1-2 pitch into the cove, even though Hudson had only thrown 89 pitches (67 strikes) through eight and two-thirds. Sergio Romo got the one-out save, but Hudson was the star of the night.
“I wanted him to get that complete game as bad as anybody … I got my closer ready, he’s hot. You don’t like to do that unless you’re going to bring him in.”
That Hudson was able to keep the ball in the park as long as he did was a minor miracle. It was 80 degrees at 7:15 pm, and it was clear after Brandon Hicks’ opposite-field home run in the second that the ball was carrying to right. But Hudson looked like a guy who was throwing golf balls for strikes on a brisk, foggy night with the wind blowing in until that final pitch.
“Great time to throw a cement-mixer in there. I shouldn’t have shook Buster off,” said Hudson, who said Posey wanted a fastball.
“Of course, I shake off and I have to get a new ball from the umpire. I threw a cutter that didn’t cut too much. Cut into the barrel. That’s about it.”
Hudson leads the Giants’ rotation in nearly every statistical category besides strikeouts, and he’s far and away the leader when it comes to self deprecatory quips.
“You could have some innings where you give up two or three doubles in the span of about four or five pitches. I’ve just been on the good end of it,” said Hudson when describing his borderline ridiculous efficiency through the season’s first month.
“I think it’s unrealistic to think it’s going to be like this all year. But I’m going to do all I can to try to keep it going all year.”
A Swift addition
Midway through the game, Chris Haft, the San Francisco Giants beat writer for MLB.com, glanced up at the pitch count in left field. He wondered aloud whether anyone in Giants history has ever pitched like Tim Hudson, who had something like 57 pitches a few seconds before getting out of the sixth inning. Who besides Juan Marichal, anyway.
The name we came up with was Billy Swift. Swift was about the same size Hudson is now (I have no idea how many pounds Swift is carrying these days, but I’d bet he’s still pretty trim). He also made his living throwing lots of sinkers, and he could handle the bat as well as Hudson, if not a little better.
Swift wasn’t the most durable guy around, but he was incredibly talented. He was at his best from 1990 through 1993, the year he went 21-8 and finished second in the Cy Young voting. During that season he posted a complete game shutout against Cincinnati on Sept. 17. Swift’s pitchcount: 82. If Hudson would’ve thrown a 1-2 fastball to Grandal instead of a cutter, and that pitch had retired Grandal, Hudson would’ve thrown a complete game in fewer pitches than any Giants hurler since Swift that evening against a Reds team that included Hal Morris, Chris Sabo and Reggie Sanders.
(Tip of the cap to Andrew Baggarly, who was nice enough to not just provide that note while I was in the process of writing about Swift, but let me use it.)
“I was determined coming into this year to prove something to myself and a lot of people that may not have thought I could come back from that injury at 38 years old. I feel pretty good about where I’m at and what I’ve been able to do this month. Obviously it’s just the first month of the season, there’s a lot of season left. But I’m happy with how things went,” Hudson said.
So are the Giants, who after a successful April appear to have made two of the best free agent acquisitions of the entire offseason in Hudson and Michael Morse.
— My dad was really happy about today’s lineup, because it included Joaquin Arias. I’ve written before about how we spent a weekend together in Arizona for some Spring Training games in 2012, and he was asking about Arias and I told him how he wasn’t a Major League hitter. Arias proceeded to club two homers that weekend.
I ate lunch with my dad yesterday, and he asked about Hicks. “Really hitting well, but he’s not much of a defensive second baseman,” I said. Then Hicks makes a slick backhanded play in the ninth inning as he and I were texting back and forth.
“He made a couple real nice plays,” Bochy said. “The infield got a lot of action. It shows you, when you get a good tempo out there, you throw strikes, the defense usually plays better.”
“When Huddy’s pitching, you’ve got to be ready,” Hicks said.
— Hicks hit his fifth home run. Four Giants now have at least five home runs. A year ago at this time, the only Giant with five homers was Brandon Crawford.
— The Giants have 34 home runs as a team. Last year at this time they had 18.
— Brandon Belt went 1-for-4 with a bloop double and a strikeout. All three balls he hit were the other way, something he probably was looking to do after getting a day off yesterday.
— Crawford hit a leadoff triple and got stranded. It’s not often that teams win after screwing that up, or maybe it just seems that way.
— Morse drove in the game’s first run with a line-drive double down the right field line, off the out-of-town scoreboard. Never has a right-handed hitter put one into McCovey Cove, but it wouldn’t shock me if Morse pulled off that feat someday.
— This game lasted two hours and 17 minutes, and it was glorious. I don’t think the temperature has ever been 73 degrees when I’m finishing up a recap after a night game. Hell, a day game for that matter.