Giants right-hander Tim Hudson is finding breaks hard to come by right now.
In the third inning Wednesday against Pittsburgh, Hudson took a comebacker off of his right leg and limped around during a several-minute delay before staying in the game. In the bottom of the inning, he crushed a Francisco Liriano pitch to the warning track in left-center field and had to leg out his first extra-base hit since 2013.
At least the ball one-hopped the wall, allowing Hudson to jog the final few feet to second base for a ground-rule double. But the run Hudson scored, on a single by Joe Panik, turned out to be the only run the Giants mustered to support him.
Hudson threw seven innings and allowed just two runs, but he departed trailing 2-1 and took the loss as the Giants dropped their fifth in a row, 5-2.
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“Our guy threw well,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Huddy did a real nice job, gave us a chance. We just couldn’t mount much offense.”
That has been a theme in Hudson’s starts this season: In his 11 outings, the Giants have totaled 17 runs with Hudson in the game. On Wednesday, Hudson turned in just the third outing of seven innings or more by a Giants starter in their last 13 games (Hudson and Chris Heston own the other two). But they couldn’t capitalize against Liriano and a Pirates staff that held them to one run until the ninth.
“It’s always frustrating when you can’t get the offense going,” Bochy said. “Your starter gives up two in seven, sure, it’s a little frustrating. But he did his job, and it’s not an easy matchup. The guy we were facing, he was throwing the ball well.”
Hudson said it “wasn’t a fun day out there for me, by any means.” He cruised through the first three innings on 30 pitches – despite the Jordy Mercer comebacker that caught him flush on the right quadriceps in the third. Hudson chased down the ball to throw Mercer out for the second out, but he was clearly in discomfort and was visited by trainers and Bochy before throwing two pitches to test it and staying in the game.
“It didn’t really come off the bat that hard, but it got me in a pretty good spot,” Hudson said. “In my younger days, I think I catch it. But yeah, I felt really, really good up to that point, and after that, it was a little bit of a battle trying to work through that.”
Hudson allowed his first hit to the next batter, Liriano, and gave up a run on three singles in a 23-pitch fourth inning. Mercer hurt him again leading off the fifth, hitting Hudson’s first pitch into the bleachers in left to put the Pirates up 2-1.
“Obviously, the home run by their shortstop was a killer for me,” Hudson said. “Got to make a little better pitch right there.”
The Giants’ bullpen started working later in that inning when the Pirates put two runners on with two outs, but Hudson got through the inning and completed two more, throwing 99 pitches in what Bochy termed “a gutty effort.”
Hudson said the quad muscle is “what you use to push off the rubber toward the plate,” and it started to tighten throughout the afternoon, especially during between-inning breaks, so that the first pitches of each later inning were a bit of a test.
“But I mean, it wasn’t really hindering me that much,” Hudson said. “It was just a little painful.”
The Giants still have not won since Hudson beat his former team, the Atlanta Braves, for the first time in the second game of this homestand. They finished it with five losses in a row, three to the streaking Pirates, who have won 11 of 13.
“I don’t think we really have anything to really hang our heads on,” Hudson said. “It’s a little bit of a skid we’re on, but we understand what kind of ballclub we are, and we just can’t put too much weight in it.
“We’re a good ballclub, and we’re going to beat up on some teams. Right now, we’re just in a little bit of a funk.”
▪ That funk has stemmed partly from a lack of timely hitting. The Giants went 3 for 7 with runners in scoring position Wednesday, but only one of those hits – Panik’s third-inning single – drove in a run. The Giants scored their other run on Brandon Crawford’s bases-loaded groundout in the ninth. They also had two rallies stifled by questionable baserunning from Nori Aoki, more on which can be found here.
The Giants put a lot of runners on base against the Pirates’ staff but had trouble driving them in. They stranded 23 runners in the series, including eight Wednesday. During their five-game losing streak, they’re 7 for 38 (.184) with men in scoring position.
“You look at the first night, Gerrit Cole, he’s one of the better pitchers right now in the league,” said Panik. “Same thing next night, (A.J.) Burnett, look at his ERA. Today we ran into Liriano, who’s another darn good pitcher. We faced three good pitchers, and granted, we had some runners on base that we could have scored. But it’s a combination of both.”
“They’re playing well,” Bochy said of the Pirates. “They are a hot team. They pitch well; they get timely hits. Today we just couldn’t generate any offense off a tough pitcher.”
▪ Panik had two hits to extend his hitting streak at AT&T Park to 17 games. He’s hit safely in nine straight overall, and Bochy pointed to the fact he didn’t have Panik bunt in a 2-1 game in the eighth with a man on first and no outs as an indication of how Panik is hitting right now.
“He’s a guy you can do a lot of things with, and he’s really swinging well now, and that’s why I wanted him swinging,” Bochy said.
Bochy also pointed out Panik hasn’t had a day off since May 21 and played both ends of the doubleheader at Colorado. Panik and the rest of the Giants will have an off-day when they travel to the White House to meet President Barack Obama and celebrate the 2014 World Series title Thursday.
“Day off’s probably coming at a good time,” Bochy said. “It was one of those series, what could go wrong went wrong at times. It’s one you put behind you.”
▪ Bochy hadn’t gotten a report yet on Matt Cain’s rehabilitation start at extended spring training, but a team spokesman said Cain threw 42 pitches in three innings and felt good. No line for Cain was available. But he is expected to join the Giants in Washington for the White House visit.
▪ Hunter Strickland has been one of the Giants’ best relievers since his call-up May 23. He threw a scoreless eighth Wednesday, which included striking out Andrew McCutchen on an 86-mph breaking ball, before the Pirates got to him in his second inning of work for two hits and two runs. Before Jose Tabata’s one-out single in the ninth, which started the rally, Strickland had retired 22 consecutive hitters.
▪ The Giants’ Triple-A team in Sacramento can run out a pretty experienced lineup right now. On Tuesday, the River Cats’ starting nine had a combined 2,121 games of major-league experience. Their opponents, the Oklahoma City Dodgers, had a combined 27 games of MLB experience.
The River Cats’ infield in that game: catcher Hector Sanchez (234 major-league games), first baseman Travis Ishikawa (444), second baseman Kevin Frandsen (507), shortstop Ehire Adrianza (62), and third baseman Casey McGehee (746). That is one grizzled Triple-A squad.
▪ As mentioned, Hudson’s third-inning double was his first extra-base hit since April 30, 2013, when he homered and doubled against the Washington Nationals. His reaction:
“(Liriano’s) lucky it didn’t go out of the park,” Hudson said, grinning. “No that’s all I got honestly. That was the best swing I’ve put on a ball in a while. I’ll take it.”
▪ After a day at the White House, the Giants head to Philadelphia for a three-game series. The pitching probables:
Friday: RHP Tim Lincecum (5-3, 3.00) vs. RHP Jerome Williams (3-5, 5.49)
Saturday: LHP Madison Bumgarner (6-2, 3.12) vs. RHP Severino Gonzalez (2-1, 6.88)
Sunday: RHP Ryan Vogelsong (4-3, 4.26) vs. RHP Sean O’Sullivan (1-4, 5.03)