SAN FRANCISCO — By the end of the first inning on Sunday, Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson had shown the signs of trouble to come and the power at hand to avert it one day.
Playing with pitch after pitch to find an elusive command, Hudson walked two of the first three batters he faced, but escaped the inning when he used the downcast that sets him apart to get a double play. The second inning started like the first, with another walk, but there was no escape. Four walks caught him, cost him control of the game, lost the Cardinals’ lead, cut his start short and started a stunt that turned into a 4-3 loss to the Giants at Oracle Park.
Mike Yastrzemski’s home run splashed into McCovey Cove was the difference on the scoreboard, but the result could be attributed to Hudson’s feel on the mound.
“I don’t think a starter walks away from a 4 2/3 (innings) and is happy with it, even if it was all zeros,” Hudson said. “I think the steps put me in a situation where we were a little lower than we should have been. Of course, I could have done more. »
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Hudson walked three of the first five batters he faced, and after Darrin Ruf’s first walk to start the second inning, LaMonte Wade Jr. tied the game with a two-run homer for his first hit of the season. The Giants added a sacrificial fly later in the inning to take the lead, and the Cardinals made up for it from there.
Yastrzemski’s solo shot Genesis Cabrera and over the right-field brick wall broke a 3-3 tie in the sixth. The Giants’ victory on Mother’s Day split a four-game series — a solid result for the Cardinals except for winning the first two of their visit.
In the series opener victory, the Cardinals thought they had seen so much of the Giants bullpen that it would help them later in the long series. By Sunday, they had seen just enough.
Former Cardinals reliever John Brebbia knocked out Andrew Knizner with the tying run at second base to hold the one-run lead at eighth. Then, Giants right-hander Camilo Doval threw a walk and wild throw to take out Nolan Arenado and secure his fifth save. The Giants bullpen, which needed nine pitchers to cover nine innings Thursday, closed the series with four great innings, allowing just one run on an RBI groundout. The Cardinals finished 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. Arenado and Knizner went a combined zero for six.
“Creating opportunities,” said manager Oliver Marmol. “Didn’t cash out.”
The Cardinals return home after a 3-3 trip with an offense that scored at least seven points in three of the games and perked up with the arrival of rookie Juan Yepez. He hit his first major league home run for a 2-0 lead that, unlike the souvenir fly ball that landed in the Cardinals’ bullpen, was quickly gone. But not unexpectedly.
Hudson’s streak of quality starts stopped at three, but the walks that halted all but his first start continued. Before Kansas City tipped him for nine hits early in this trip, Hudson had allowed more walks (nine) than hits (six) in his previous three starts. He is gifted with a powerful lead that allows him to get grounders eagerly, and his peers have said his success could take off if he limits walks. The right-hander led the National League with 86 walks in 33 games in 2019.
“We’ve seen what he’s capable of when he hits the area,” Marmol said. “Can he get away from it as far as he’s on the ground and getting double plays? Yes, it works most of the time. … That’s the thing with pellets. You’ll have games where you’re right behind every baseball and it’s 80 clean throws, you’re in the seventh and you feel good. There will be days when four or five of them come by and you’re like, ‘(Jeepers), it’s not looking good.’ It’s the same. These balls of earth pass. That’s why when you combine that with the rides, you hope they don’t line up on the same day.
The first two rounds offered insight into Hudson’s potential and pitfall.
He walked both batters in the first inning, then got a routine fly ball to end the inning. He walked the first batter of the second inning and Marmol jumped from the dugout to make a quick visit. Wade homered on the next at-bat. Hudson was missing on the inside to right-handed hitters, and when he tried to get back into the zone, he found the heart of the zone. The Giants were able to ignore many of his pitches and wait for the fastball, throwing five hits for three runs from right-hander in 4 2/3 innings.
“I threw everything into every account, tried to work in the zone and get things done,” Hudson said. “Knizner and I were bouncing stuff and finally found a way to grab – and it was my fastball. I didn’t really show much else. In a day when you don’t have command, I think everyone has a way to find a way back into the zone. My usual manner was not there. So it was like, ‘Let me find something else.’ I threw it all away. I just did my best to keep us where we were and have a chance to win.
The Giants swung on 34 of Hudson’s 83 shots. The missed only two. The Giants did not bat in the game until their batting final, to finish eighth.
Hudson (2-3) reduced his walk rate in 2020 from 4.4 per nine innings pitched to 3.5, and he was improving from there when his elbow parted. It’s his first full season back from reconstructive surgery, and Marmol mentioned things, strength and speed come back first. The order comes later.
Hudson said “it’s the same conversation” on walks he had earlier in his career, the task is “where can I make this adjustment faster?”
The lead had the ability to get him out of trouble in the first inning, but not every inning. The Grounders sneak up. It happens. Walks can cause a game to escape.
“No step puts us in a winning position (Sunday),” Hudson said. “Finding it is, I guess, a loose term. I just found a way to compete and give what I had. I’m not going to give myself an exit or an excuse. It just wasn’t my day.