Tim Hudson dreamed of the moment for most of his 39 years. Sadly, the moment — his first World Series start — came and went too quickly, and its end was all too familiar.
Throughout his 16 years in the major leagues, he's been “that guy” on each of the three teams for whom he has All-Starred. The guy who pitches his ass off, and far too frequently gets nothing to show for it.
The raucous applause to which Hudson trudged off the mound at AT&T Park in the sixth inning of Game 4 of the 2014 World Series was nice. Well-deserved, too. This was not courtesy clapping.
A few runs would've been nice, too, but when the Giants are struggling at the plate, a few runs almost seems too much to ask. And make no mistake: the Giants are struggling at the plate right now.
Throughout their insanely entertaining run to the World Series, whatever offensive funk the local nine found itself fighting was routinely offset by defensive and mental lapses by the opposition.
Three games into this Fall Classic, it's clear that the Royals are not inclined to to play along with this particular story line. They will not, it appears, be shooting themselves in the foot anytime soon. This is a team with some seriously steely resolve, as evidenced by Eric Hosmer's intensely focused at-bat to close Hudson's line in the sixth.
Having fallen behind in the count to Javier Lopez, who'd been brought on specifically for the lefty versus lefty matchup with Hosmer, the Royals' red-hot first baseman fought off a series of progressively nastier pictures from Lopez before drilling a single that put Kansas City on top, 3-0.
The sight of Hudson sitting in the dugout, an invisible L floating over his head during this long-awaited moment, must've stirred something inside his offenses two minutes. Guilt, perhaps? Whatever it was, it sparked the Giants to get off their butts and make something happen.
So Brandon Crawford single, and Michael Morse came off the bench to set the crowd on fire with an RBI double.
Maybe it wasn't guilt at all. Maybe it was the sense of urgency brought on by the sight of the Royals bullpen stirring. Game 2 gave the Giants — and everyone else previously unaware of its brilliance — a good look at KC's Herrera-Davis-Holland endgame.
That trio of flamethrowers turns a big-league game into a Little League game: six innings and you're done.
In this case, though, the trio would be asked to protect a late lead for 12 outs, not the customary nine. So on came Herrera with Morse on second base and nobody out in the sixth.
A walk and two groundouts later it was 3-2, and that invisible L over Hudson's head was fading fast. Herrera wiggled out of it without further incident, however, the first three of those 12 big outs in the books.
How much faith does Royals manager Ned Yost having his three-headed monster? Rather than take a crack at adding an insurance run in the top of the seventh, he let Herrera try to swing the bat so he'd have his arm in the bottom half.
In that regard, it was a moral victory for the Giants when they forced Yost to lift Herrera in favor of rookie Brandon Finnegan. But Finnegan, who was playing college ball earlier this year, got the Royals right back into their bullpen happy zone by getting out of the seventh and handing off to Davis and Holland.
Predictably, that invisible L over Hudson's head turned real in no time. And that moral victory all but disappeared.
So, too, did the incredible confidence of the we-can-do-anything Giants. They've been silenced by the Royals wanted bullpen in consecutive games now, and it's going to take quite a bit of their patented October magic to earn another moment for hard-luck Hudson.