Tim Hudson’s fountain of youth keeps flowing

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SAN FRANCISCO – It should be obvious now which medieval helmet Michael Morse and Hunter Pence should order for Tim Hudson.

One in the shiny, comb-sided Spanish conquistador style – like the one Ponce de Leon wore while searching for the Fountain of Youth.

[RELATED: Instant Replay: Giants back to winning ways, shut out Cubs]

The difference is that Hudson actually has stumbled upon it. The 38-year-old right-hander dragged his repaired ankle and his sore hip to the mound Tuesday night and pitched like he was trying to finish chores before sundown. He scattered six hits over seven sprightly shutout innings and didn’t allow a runner to reach third base in the Giants’ 4-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs Tuesday night.

Hudson remained unbeaten (8-0) in 14 home starts over the past two seasons as a Giant and a Brave. He has a 1.92 ERA. He’s the first Giant to post a sub-2 mark through 10 starts since Dave LaPoint in 1985.

Did he know he was capable of this?

“Of course!” he said, with mock pride. “You know what, it’s early in the year (but) I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my season with a new team, new teammates and a new organization. I hope they don’t think I’ll be this good all year. Hopefully I can stay healthy, stay strong and keep on keepin’ on.”

They’re saying the Giants have the best record in the NL but no obvious All-Stars on their roster. If they picked sides now, Hudson would be an obvious choice to make it for the fourth time in his career.

“It’d be a great honor, especially coming off an injury wondering if I’d pitch again,” said Hudson, who was carted off on a stretcher last July in New York with a fractured ankle. “But it’s 10 starts. There’s 25 more.”

Always, the first and last caveat is health. Hudson was coming off a rain-shortened three-inning start at Coors Field in which he limited the Rockies to one run despite seven baserunners. That was his only test since skipping his previous turn with a strained left hip.

He said there was some accumulated rust, even if the Cubs didn’t make him pay for his mistakes.

“I actually got away with a couple pitches,” he said. “Guys made some good plays behind me, like they always do. I tried to do the same thing, just make the guys behind me look as good as they can and keep the pace up.”

Pablo Sandoval blooped a single to extend his streak to seven games with an RBI, three off the San Francisco-era record held by Jeff Kent and Matt Williams. Buster Posey didn’t get any hits to interrupt his slump, but he managed a pair of sacrifice flies.

Hudson didn’t need any more than that. He had no idea if this ranks as his best 10-start run to begin a season.

“From a command standpoint, though, it’s probably the best as far as throwing strikes and letting guys behind me make plays,” he said. “I don’t really try to overpower anybody. I don’t try to overthrow through my mechanics. Just let it flow and most of the time it’s been working out.”

And yes, he’s glad he came here. He has 44 strikeouts and just six walks in 70.1 innings, and the ballpark plays into that. So did Mike Olt’s double off the wall, which would’ve been out in most parks.

“AT&T Park, chalk it up,” Hudson said, grinning. “This is a great pitcher’s park, great weather. It’s a great place to pitch. It’s all positive and no negative. You can go out and challenge guys. I’ve got the confidence to attack the strike zone and not nibble so much.”

As for his hip, he said he didn’t have any issues with it. The reconstructed ankle does get cranky later in games, but he comes in early to get treatment and it’s “as 100 percent as it’s going to get, I think.”

The rest is fine tuning. And when you’ve driven a classic car long enough, you understand how to keep it running.

“I’m not going to kill myself on the side or long toss or try to throw 95 mph,” he said. “What I have is what I have.”

And what does he have, exactly?

“Smoke and mirrors, man,” he said, with another grin. “Smoke and mirrors.”

Another month like this and Hudson might see his reflection wearing an NL All-Star uniform. And maybe Ponce de Leon’s helmet, too.

Cardinals beat Brewers, both clinch postseason berths

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. LOUIS — Harrison Bader tripled and homered to help the St. Louis Cardinals clinch a postseason berth on the final day of the regular season with a 5-2 win over Milwaukee, and the Brewers also earned a playoff spot Sunday via help on the West Coast moments later.

St. Louis (30-28) will be the fifth seed in the NL and open a three-game wild-card series at San Diego on Wednesday. By winning, the Cardinals avoided having to travel to Detroit for two makeup games Monday. St. Louis finished the regular season with 23 games in 18 days as it made up a slew of postponements caused by a coronavirus outbreak in the clubhouse.

“You had to throw some of the expectations out the window not knowing what to expect after taking those couple weeks off and all those doubleheaders and so many new guys,” Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. “It was very different, very fulfilling to make the playoffs.”

The Brewers (29-31) locked up the eighth seed and a third consecutive postseason berth after the Padres beat San Francisco 5-4 in a game that ended about 15 minutes after St. Louis’ victory. The Giants finished with an identical record as the Brewers but lost out on a tiebreaker due to an inferior intradivision record.

“It’s fitting for 2020 and everything we went through,” Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich said. “It felt just as good as past years. This year’s a unique one. There’s so many challenges we had to go through on a daily basis behind the scenes, things you don’t deal with in a normal year.”

Milwaukee will face the top-seeded Dodgers in Los Angeles in a three-game series that also starts Wednesday.

The Brewers haven’t had a winning record at any point this season. Milwaukee and Houston will be the first teams ever to qualify for the playoffs with a losing mark.

“It’s a celebration,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We’re in the playoffs. That’s how you see it. There’s no reason to apologize for getting into the playoffs.”

Cardinals starter Austin Gomber allowed one run, one hit and two walks and struck out three over four innings.

Giovanny Gallegos (2-0), Genesis Cabrera and Alex Reyes combined to pitch the final five innings. Reyes got his first save.

“We’d have been happy getting in as the eight seed,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “We’d have been happy being the one seed, but people can say we got in if there was no expanded playoffs so that’s even another feather in this group’s cap.”

Brett Anderson (4-4) surrendered a triple to Bader and a walk to Tyler O'Neill to start the third inning before departing with a blister on his left index finger. Anderson opened the season on the injured list with a blister on the same finger and did not make his debut until Aug. 3.

Freddy Peralta replaced him a day after being activated from the paternity list, and O’Neill promptly stole second. Kolten Wong then hit a line drive off Peralta’s leg that Peralta threw into right field to score Bader and O’Neill.

Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong each added RBI singles to push the St. Louis lead to 4-0.

After Milwaukee scored in the top of the fifth, Bader hit his fifth home run of the season.

“That was a big counterpunch,” Shildt said of Bader. “Got them on their heels again.”

THREE TIMES THE FUN

Yadier Molina grounded into a triple play in the eighth inning when he hit a one hop grounder to Jace Peterson at third base in the eighth inning. It was Milwaukee’s first triple play since Sept. 23, 2016, when Cincinnati’s Joey Votto lined out to first base. Molina was also the last Cardinals player to hit into a triple play when he grounded out to third base at Boston on Aug. 15, 2017.

TRAINING ROOM

Brewers: Counsell said it was too early to prognosticate Anderson’s status after departing with the blister.

Cardinals: St. Louis president of baseball operations John Mozeliak announced that RHP Dakota Hudson will have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow Monday. Hudson went 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA in eight starts before leaving his start on Sept. 17 at Pittsburgh with right elbow discomfort after two innings.

UP NEXT

Brewers: The Brewers head to Los Angeles and will likely be without two of their top starters in Anderson and Corbin Burnes, who sustained a left oblique injury on Thursday.

Cardinals: This will be the fourth postseason series between St. Louis and San Diego, who faced each other in 1996, 2005, and 2006 in the Division Series.