Giants Avoid Sweep Behind Hudson’s Brilliant Start

Tim Hudson was brilliant once again as San Francisco avoided being swept for the first time all year and (finally!) defeated the Washington Nationals 7-1.

The Giants got on the board first for the first time all series when Michael Morse led off the bottom of the second with a single, and Tyler Colvin tripled him home. Brandon Crawford followed it up with an RBI groundout, making it 2-0 San Francisco. It was Crawford’s 35th RBI of the young season – his career-high is 45 in 2012.

Washington got one of those runs back in the top of the fourth. With two outs, Adam LaRoche singled, went to second on a passed ball, and scored on an RBI by Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmerman has turned into a bit of a good luck charm for the Nationals, as the team is 13-6 with him in the line-up and 22-24 without.

The Giants added some huge insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth off of Craig Stammen when Pablo Sandoval and Morse led off with back-to-back singles, with Sandoval making it to third. Both runners advance on a balk by Stammen, scoring Sandoval and sending Morse to second. Crawford then beat out an infield single, extending his hitting streak to eight games, and pinch-hitter Gregor Blanco delivered a solid single to left to make it 4-1.

Those extra runs allowed Hudson (7-2) to pitch the seventh, and he’s now pitched at least seven innings in ten of his 13 starts this year. He’s been beyond clutch for the Giants, and Thursday was no exception as he tossed seven innings, allowing six hits, two walks, and striking out five. The lone Washington run was unearned, lowering Hudson’s ERA to a MLB-best 1.81. As someone who’s faced Hudson before, Colvin knows just how good the veteran right-hander is.

“He’s a competitor. That’s all he does – he competes. He’s pounding the strikezone with that sinker and keeping guys off balance when he needs to, and getting those ground balls when we need them.”

Just for good measure, San Francisco tacked on a few more runs. In the bottom of the seventh off of Aaron Barrett, Hunter Pence led off with his third single of the day, stole second, went to third on a Buster Posey groundout, and scored on a Sandoval sacrifice fly. They’d get Barrett for two more runs in the bottom of the eighth. Colvin led off with a single and Crawford doubled before Hector Sanchez crushed a pinch-hit single, scoring them both.

Before giving up five earned runs during Thursday’s game, the Washington bullpen led the majors in ERA at 2.17 (47 ER in 195 innings). On the other hand, Jean Machi pitched a 1-2-3 top of the eighth to extend his scoreless inning streak to 23 (per Alex Pavlovic) and lower his ERA to a miniscule 0.31. Sergio Romo struck out the side in the ninth to close it out.

Despite losing three in a row this week, the Giants were firing on all cylinders during the final game of the series. The pitching was spectacular, the defense was phenomenal, and despite not having hit a home run in a season-high six games, the offense crushed 13 hits off of a very good Washington pitching staff. Hudson is especially impressed the shortstop playing behind him.

“I think [Crawford’s] right there with [Andrelton] Simmons. Obviously, Simmons is really good, there is no question about it. He’s probably one of the best if not the best I’ve played with. But Crawford is way better than people give him credit for, and he’s a lot of fun to watch. Every ball that gets hit to that side of the field I feel like he’s gonna make a play, and that’s what he did today.”

The Giants also managed to maintain the best record in baseball and keep an eight-and-a-half game lead over the second-place Dodgers. Colvin says that this is a confident team.

“It’s always fun to win, and when you come onto to a team where the mindset’s ‘We’re going to win, and we’re gonna win a lot,’ it’s a great thing to be a part of when every day you come to the field and you’re expecting to win.”

They’ll welcome the Colorado Rockies to AT&T Park for the weekend, and Tim Lincecum (5-4, 4.97) will take the mound in the opener against Jorge De La Rosa (6-5, 4.04).