SAN FRANCISCO – Tim Hudson smiled and shook his head like he’d just returned to the parking lot to find he’d left his headlights on.
“Yeah … yeah,” he said, with a you-dummy look on his face. “Great time to throw a cement mixer in there, huh? I shouldn’t have shook Buster off. He wanted a fastball. I threw a cutter. It didn’t cut much.
“It cut into his barrel. That’s about it.”
Hudson was one strike away from a complete game Wednesday night, which would’ve been his first in almost two years. His 89th pitch ended up splashing in McCovey Cove, courtesy of Yasmani Grandal. So Hudson wiped his bald brow, acknowledged a standing ovation, listened to a little frenetic Mexican Banda music and watched Sergio Romo get the last ground ball to finish up a 3-2 victory over the San Diego Padres Wednesday night.
Romo closed out more than Hudson’s win and a series victory. He also pulled the sandbag on a 17-11 record through April – the Giants’ plumpest victory total before May 1 since the 2003 team, which won 100 regular-season games.
The Giants rotation was up and down in April. The starters have just eight victories. Hudson owns half of those. He stabilized the starting five when they were struggling to pitch deep into games. And once they began to pitch better, Hudson carried the momentum.
He is 4-1 with a 2.17 ERA, a 31-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 45.2 innings and an NL-low average of 12.46 pitches per inning. His pitch-by inning totals Wednesday night: eight, 10, 12, 10, 11, nine, nine, 12 and eight.
He’s Maddux redux. And he's the Giants' April MVP.
“I have no idea what that would be like,” said Posey, asked if he could imagine catching Maddux. “I have no idea how to compare that. I just know I love it.
“It’s fun for the defense. It’s fun for the offense. You’re back in the dugout so quick. It’s the type of rhythm you want in the game.”
It’s the rhythm the Giants had such trouble establishing last season, when they played so many long, laboring games. Manager Bruce Bochy remarked on more than one occasion that the sluggish pace of games last season contributed to a tired bunch in the second half. Posey hit .244 with two homers after the break.
He didn’t feel like he caught nine innings Wednesday.
“You catch that many pitches in four or five innings sometimes,” he said.
The Giants played in two hours, 17 minutes. A night earlier, with Yusmeiro Petit the greatest thing ever behind emergency glass, they played it in two hours, 28 minutes.
That can only help as they hop a flight Thursday to begin their first long road trip of the season to Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Dodger Stadium.
Hudson won’t face his former team at Turner Field, obviously. The way he’s lined up now, he wouldn’t pitch in the series later in May when the Braves play at AT&T Park. He’s OK with that.
“If it were my turn, I’d go about it the same way,” said Hudson, who didn’t receive a market-value offer to return to Atlanta after nine seasons there. “At least now I won’t have to try to get those guys out. I can enjoy my friends and family and get ready for my start in Pittsburgh.”
The last time Hudson wore a Braves uniform was July 24 of last season, when the Mets’ Eric Young Jr. inadvertently stepped on his foot at first base. Hudson left Citi Field on a stretcher with a broken ankle, wondering if he’d ever pitch in the big leagues again.
“I was determined coming into this year to prove something to myself, and maybe to people who didn’t think I could come back from that injury at 38,” Hudson said. “It’s obviously just the first month of the season. But I’m happy with the way things turned out this month.”
He did acknowledge his heart fluttered a bit in the fifth inning, when he had to cover first base for the second time in a three-batter span. It’s something he had done several times earlier this month. But the race to the bag with the Padres’ Jace Peterson was the closest he’s come to a two-step with the runner.
“Peterson, he was getting down the line a lot quicker than I thought,” Hudson said. “Old guy had to put it in overdrive to beat him.”
The quick innings have a way of looking easy. But is it, really?
“No, it’s definitely not,” Hudson said. “When you pound the strike zone, you can have quick innings. You also can give up two or three doubles in four or five pitches. I’ve just been coming out on the good end of it. It’s unrealistic to think it’ll be like this all year. But I’ll try to keep it going as long as I can.”
Hudson’s offense hit enough drives to back him. Brandon Hicks hit his fifth homer – and his fourth as a second baseman, matching the total number of homers the Giants received from that position last year. Michael Morse, who already has more homers (6) than Giants left fielders hit last year (5), hit an RBI double in the first inning.
The ball was carrying on a warm night, especially in the early innings, but Hudson used his sinker and cutter to record 15 ground ball outs. One cutter too many, though. (If Grandal had made an out, Hudson would've turned in the lowest pitch count by a Giant in a nine-inning complete game in 21 years. Bill Swift needed just 82 pitches to subdue the Reds at Riverfront Stadium on Sept. 17, 1993.)
Posey’s face lit up and he laughed when informed that Hudson was kicking himself over that last pitch selection.
“Aw, if he threw it down where he wanted, he would’ve been all right,” Posey said. “I don’t think it matters. He was on all night.”