SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — In the middle of a champagne-and-beer-soaked clubhouse after the San Francisco Giants won the NL Championship Series, Tim Hudson was given the chance to speak to his team.
The message was as simple as Hudson’s approach on the mound: “World Series, baby!”
After 16 years, 214 regular-season wins and seven failed trips to the postseason, Hudson has finally made it to baseball’s biggest stage at age 39.
Hudson is set to take the mound Friday night for the Giants when they return home to face Jeremy Guthrie and the Royals in Game 3 of the World Series after a two-game split in Kansas City.
“It’s almost a sense of relief that it’s finally here, that what I’ve hoped and dreamed for throughout my career is finally here, and there’s not going to be anybody on the field that’s more ready than I am tomorrow night,” Hudson said Thursday.
Hudson’s brilliant career began on the other side of San Francisco Bay as he helped Oakland make four straight trips to the postseason that ended with Game 5 losses in the division series.
Hudson got back to the playoffs with Atlanta, losing in the division series in 2005 to Houston and 2010 to San Francisco. The Braves made it again last year when Hudson was hurt but lost again in the division series.
After signing a $23 million, two-year contract this offseason with San Francisco, Hudson finally got to experience postseason success.
“You often wonder, is it ever going to happen? Obviously, last year the way my season ended with my ankle injury, things looked a little bleak there for a few moments,” Hudson said. But I’m just really lucky.”
Hudson got no-decisions in his first two postseason starts, allowing five runs in 13 2-3 innings against Washington and St. Louis.
The limited work of late has paid dividends. Hudson looks much fresher than he did in September when he went 0-4 with an 8.72 ERA in five starts to end the season while dealing with a bum hip. He finished the season with a 9-13 record for his first losing campaign ever.
“It’s hard enough to play this game when you’re healthy, but when you’re pitching and your hip’s bothering you a little bit — and he’s a warrior,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He was never complaining. He was never making excuses, but it was a fact. I think it was affecting him a little bit.”
Guthrie had a long wait just to get to the playoffs. He made his first postseason appearance at age 35 when he allowed one run in five innings of a no-decision against Baltimore in Game 3 of the ALCS.
That start is Guthrie’s only outing the past four weeks; he did not pitch in the division series sweep against the Angels. So Guthrie has done his best to stay sharp with side work instead of pitching in games.
He has also spent time serving as a translator for some of Kansas City’s Spanish-speaking players. Guthrie completed a Mormon mission to Spain when he was in college, not picking up a baseball for two years.
But Guthrie revived his career when he returned and transferred to Stanford, becoming a first-round pick in 2002 and eventually a major leaguer.
He said he learned at Stanford the importance of going deep into games — something that was most evident when he went 13 innings to beat Cal-State Fullerton in the NCAA tournament his final year there.
“Four days before the draft, Scott Boras my agent, or adviser at that time, was there, and I don’t think he was anticipating or hoping for 13 innings that close to the draft,” Guthrie said. “But it was 147 pitches. Again, it was a reflection of competing to the end, it’s yours to win, and watching kind of the pitchers pitch by pitch, and seeing how they’re doing versus kind of letting the number dictate when they were going to be taken out.”
With a stellar bullpen led by Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis behind him in Kansas City, Guthrie knows he won’t be asked to go that deep on a team that has had only one starter pitch into the seventh this postseason.
“That’s been the result, but we’re out there trying to get as deep as we can,” Guthrie said. “For us to win a game without having to throw all three of our relievers at the back end, Kelvin, and Wade, and Greg, will only give our team a better chance to win throughout the series.”