The totally unpredictable, sometimes reprehensible San Francisco Giants are at it again. The orange and black have now won a National League record nine consecutive postseason games and don’t appear ready to slow down anytime soon, despite being noticeably vulnerable, particularly in the late innings.
The Giants narrowly escaped the nation’s capital with a narrow 3-2 win on Friday evening, but doubled-up the NL East champions in the hit column (12-to-6). San Francisco must do a better job of executing with runners-in-scoring-position if they’re going to advance past the Washington Nationals and reach the NLCS for the third time in five seasons. The Giants were just three-for-15 with runners on second- and third base in Game 1, exhibiting a concerning inability to distance themselves from the Nationals.
Sep 1, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Hudson (17) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco has a clear-cut opportunity to take a commanding two-to-love series lead heading back to the City by the Bay in Game 2, but will need to take advantage of scoring chances in order to do so. They’ll also need a strong performance from veteran right-hander Tim Hudson, whose postseason roster spot was possibly in jeopardy before a mostly strong start against the NL West champion-Los Angeles Dodgers in his final regular season start on September 24.
Hudson failed to record a winning record for the first-time in his career in 2014. He also failed to record a double-digit win total for the first time in his distinguished 16-year stint as a big league pitcher (minimum 22 starts). Hudson is well-rested, though. He allowed three earned runs against the Dodgers in 5.1 innings during his latest rotation turn and will enter NLDS Game 2 with 10 days of rest.
The Giants have lost five consecutive games in which Hudson started. They’ve scored one or zero runs in four of those five games, disabling Hudson from having any realistic chance of aiding his team to victory. It’s not as if Hudson has been efficient in those starts, though. Hudson has posted a dismal 9.55 ERA over his previous five turns and has survived the sixth inning just once.
The Giants need much more than that from their veteran right-hander if they’re going to fly back to San Francisco with a commanding two-game lead over the Nationals, who finished the regular season with the best record in the NL (96-66). Hudson will be tasked with trying to keep the Nationals at bay against red-hot Jordan Zimmerman, who is fresh off a no-hitter in the Nationals’ regular season finale.
Zimmerman recorded a career-low 2.66 ERA in 2014. He hasn’t allowed more then two earned runs in a single game since mid-August (3). The Nationals have won an astounding total of 11 straight games in which Zimmerman has taken the ball, increasing the importance of the Giants stealing Game 1 from Washington in a series that could very well go the distance.
Jun 8, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Washington Nationals starter Jordan Zimmerman (27) delivers a pitch against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
For the Giants to win Game 2, they need to be more effective with RISP, but they mostly need a strong start from Hudson. If the 39-year-old is unable to perform near his peak in the early innings, manager Bruce Bochy will have both Tim Lincecum and Yusmeiro Petit at his disposal. Bochy opted to use five relievers in relief of Jake Peavy in Game 1, but has two fresh long-man arms available if needed.
Bochy continues to pull all the right strings in postseason action. The Giants have been virtually unbeatable in October in their three trips to the playoffs under their big-domed skipper. They’ll look to continue that success in what should be another hard-nosed affair on Saturday evening in D.C.