SAN FRANCISCO -- Buster Posey said that Tim Hudson seemed like "his normal self" in the hours leading up to the biggest start of the 39-year-old right-hander’s career.
"If he did have nerves, he didn’t really show it," Posey said. "He’s getting locked in, but he’s not afraid to make a joke every now and again. It was same old, same old for him."
For the first time, though, Hudson warmed up Friday surrounded by the pageantry of the World Series. He took the mound, for the first time, as the starting pitcher for one of two teams still vying for the crown of Major League Baseball. After 16 regular seasons and more than 3,000 innings, Hudson for the first time threw a pitch in a World Series game at 5:10 p.m. PT.
It was a 91 mile per hour fastball -- and Alcides Escobar smoked it into the left-field corner for a leadoff double.
Before many of the 43,020 at AT&T Park had settled into their seats, the Royals had a runner in scoring position, and Escobar would ultimately score the first run of Kansas City’s 3-2 win in Game 3 on a Lorenzo Cain groundout. All three runs were charged to Hudson, who took the loss.
It was a mixed bag of an outing for Hudson. In the second inning, the Royals put the first two hitters on and Salvador Perez hit a sinking liner to left that Travis Ishikawa caught on a run-saving slide. It started a stretch of 12 consecutive hitters retired by Hudson. But that stretch ended with Escobar singling in the sixth and scoring when Alex Gordon crushed a Hudson sinker to the wall in center field for a double.
Hudson faced one more batter, retiring Lorenzo Cain, before departing to a loud ovation from the AT&T Park crowd. It may have been the atmosphere Hudson envisioned for his World Series debut, but the 2-0 deficit -- which became 3-0 when Gordon scored on an Eric Hosmer single off Javier Lopez -- likely weren’t the circumstances.
"I thought he threw the ball well, very well," manager Bruce Bochy said. "The first pitch got away from him. He got ambushed there."
Hudson was asked if he would use the same term -- ambushed -- and answered with a bit of a wry grin.
"Pitches don’t get swung at first pitch of the game too often," he said. "But it’s a pitch in the ballgame that can get hit.
"You’ve got to give him credit. He could’ve popped it up just as easy as he doubled, but he didn’t pop it up. He hit a double and got me in a jam right there off the get-go."
"You’ve got to tip your hat to them," Hudson said. "They got in a position to draw blood early and in that first inning, they did."
To Hudson’s credit, he helped prevent further damage in the second by getting Jarrod Dyson to ground into an inning-ending double play after Perez’s lineout. For the next four innings, he kept it a one-run game, with the Giants simply unable to mount any offense against Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie.
Guthrie, too, was making his first World Series appearance at age 35. And while he had not waited as long as Hudson, he said he took a moment before he threw his first pitch to appreciate the moment.
"I got back behind the mound and looked around at the sea of orange that was throughout AT&T (Park)," Guthrie said.
"It felt like I was doing something that I didn’t even dream of. A lot of people say they dreamed of playing in the World Series. I don’t think I had that dream. But now to live it, it feels right, and it feels like a moment I’ll never forget."
Hudson, on the other hand, was effusive in the days leading up to Game 3 that it was the realization of a career goal, calling it, "the biggest game I’ve ever pitched." Knowledge of that permeated the Giants clubhouse, which had focused part of its pennant-clinching celebration in the NLCS on Hudson and his first trip to the Fall Classic.
"It was neat," Posey said of catching Hudson’s start Friday. "It was. I mean, I grew up watching the guy pitch for Atlanta and even Oakland. So it was special."
"It was great to see," said reliever Javier Lopez. "I think he pitched really well today, and that’s what makes this unfortunate that it had to end the way it did.
"He was aggressive and attacking the strike zone, doing the things he needed to do, started getting in a rhythm those middle innings. It was unfortunate the way it turned out. But we’re all happy for him, and I’m sure he can sit back later on and reflect. But we’ve still got some work to do here."
Hudson’s work, too, may not be over. By pitching Friday, he would be on regular rest for a potential Game 7. Obviously, if the Series were to reach that point, convention would likely go out the window and pitching plans could be altered. Asked if he would be ready for that game Friday night, Hudson smiled and said:
"I’m hoping we win the next three games, to be honest with you."
But if another start in this Series arises, Hudson said he’ll be ready. He waited 16 seasons for his first one. That it began -- and ended -- the way it did had not dampened his spirits.