Tim Hudson signed a two-year, $23 million deal in the offseason with San Francisco. (Brad Mangin/SI)
Since moving into AT&T Park (née Pac Bell) back in 2000, the Giants have never been swept during a four-game series, and on Thursday afternoon, Tim Hudson kept that record intact. The 38-year-old righty threw seven strong innings against the streaking Nationals, who had taken three straight in San Francisco, as the Giants won 7-1.
Washington had pummeled San Francisco by a combined 17-5 score over the first three games of the series, but Hudson held them in check, scattering six hits and two walks across his seven frames while striking out five. The run he yielded was unearned. After Adam LaRoche hit a two-out single in the fourth inning, he took second on a Buster Posey passed ball and then scored on a Ryan Zimmerman single. Hudson allowed back-to-back singles to start the fifth, but escaped the jam when Nationals starter Blake Treinen struck out bunting and Denard Span grounded into a double play. He worked around back-to-back walks to Jayson Werth and LaRoche in the sixth thanks to a pair of fielders choices.
Here's the highlight reel of his day:
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Hudson was working through traffic at a time when the game was close. The Giants scored two runs in the second inning thanks to a Mike Morse single, a Tyler Colvin triple and a groundout. They didn't score again until the sixth, when they added two from a quartet of singles and a balk. They tacked on another run in the seventh and two in the eighth.
Hudson lowered his ERA to 1.81. That allowed him to take over the NL lead from Johnny Cueto, who with six shutout innings on Wednesday had lowered his own to 1.85. While he's striking out just 6.0 per nine, he has the league's second-lowest walk and homer rates (1.3 and 0.4 per nine). He hasn't allowed a homer since Yasiel Puig took him deep on May 11 -- a span of 29 innings. He's avoided the long ball thanks largely to his ability to generate ground balls via his splitter and sinker. He came into Thursday with the league's second-highest groundball rate at 58.2 percent.
Hudson's performance is a big reason why the Giants have the best record in baseball at 43-24 (.642). They've allowed a league-low 3.40 runs per game, but much of that owes to their ballpark. The team's 106 ERA+ coming into Thursday was merely tied for fourth in the league. Among Giants starters, Hudson (183 ERA+) and Madson Bumgarner (2.67 ERA, 120 ERA+) are the only ones preventing runs at a better-than-average clip; Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong (both at 3.84 ERA, 87 ERA+) are off to sluggish starts, and Tim Lincecum (4.97 ERA, 67 ERA+) has been even worse relative to the league than he was in 2012 or 2013.
Hudson's two-year, $23 million deal continues to look like one of the winter's best. For that money, the Giants didn't expect to get themselves a stopper, but they've found one.