Tim Hudson is 39 years old. He has started 457 major-league games in the regular season, thrown 3,003 innings, compiled a career 3.45 ERA and played in All-Star Games and for playoff teams — in both leagues.
But the veteran of the Moneyball A’s and the Atlanta Braves has never started a game in the World Series. That will change on Friday night, when Hudson takes the ball for San Francisco against the Royals in game three at AT&T Park.
“The further along you get in your career,” Hudson said Thursday, “you don’t have that opportunity to pitch in a World Series. You often wonder: Is it ever going to happen?”
Those worries were compounded in July 2013, when Hudson’s season was ended by a gruesome ankle injury suffered while covering first base for the Braves. For a moment, the question was not about the World Series or the playoffs or any grand stage in October. The question was more sobering: Was Hudson’s career over?
“Things looked a little bleak there for a few moments,” Hudson said. “But I’m just really lucky. I feel lucky and blessed to be able to have this opportunity to come here to San Francisco. That’s why I came here. You always say the right things and you always think about the right things, but until it actually happens, there’s always that doubt. Can it happen? Here I am.”
After signing a free-agent deal with the Giants in the offseason, Hudson returned to a big-league mound in April. He finished 9-13 with a 3.57 ERA in 31 starts, a feat of durability for a man now just eight months away from his 40th birthday.
In two starts this postseason, Hudson has allowed five earned runs in 132/3 innings. In his last outing, he was nicked for four runs in 61/3 innings in a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.
With reliever Tim Lincecum’s health in question and reliever Hunter Strickland’s continued ineffectiveness, the Giants will hope to see Hudson go deep into the game as the two teams prepare to play three games in three nights.
“You can’t push your starter past what you think or where you think he should be at,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy cautioned. “So we’re going to have to hopefully get some help there.”
In the days before his first World Series start, Hudson tried to remain calm. He kept the same routine. He maintained the same preparation. And he hoped, he said, that he would be able to sleep on Thursday night.
“I sleep good every night,” Hudson said. “Ask my wife. Obviously, this is something I’ve never had to deal with at this point in my career. It’s something that I’ve always looked forward to. I’ve always hoped and dreamed that this opportunity would happen for me, and here I am on the eve of obviously the biggest game I’ve ever pitched.
“It’s almost a sense of relief that it’s finally here.”