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.

Astros clinch postseason berth with 11-3 win over Angels

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No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.

First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.

On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.

Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.