The career arcs of Tim Hudson and Barry Zito diverged widely after their final season as teammates in Oakland in 2004. Hudson spent the next nine years pitching in Atlanta, where he won double-digit games in each of his seven full healthy seasons. In 2007, Zito crossed the Bay to San Francisco, where he signed a then-record contract that set a tone for seven tumultuous seasons.
Yet in a career quirk, the two pitchers, who will face each other Saturday when the Giants play the A’s at O.co Coliseum, both were part of World Series championship teams in San Francisco, though not at the same time. And on Friday, both cited those title runs – Zito’s in 2012 and Hudson’s in 2014 – as highlights of their respective careers.
Zito was also a member of the 2010 Giants team that brought the city of San Francisco its first World Series title. But he was memorably left off the postseason roster that year, and for that reason, he said Friday his World Series experience was “kind of a down and up one.”
The “up” came two years later, when Zito played a critical role in the Giants’ run to the 2012 championship. With the Giants down 3-1 to the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series and facing elimination in St. Louis, Zito started Game 5 and pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings in a 5-0 win that sparked the Giants’ comeback in that series.
Zito then started Game 1 of the World Series against the Tigers’ Justin Verlander and earned the win by allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings. He recalled Friday that he “got to pitch Game 1 against somebody that had cartoon numbers.”
“It was pretty special,” Zito said. “And it was the highlight of my career, because that’s what we want. We want that trophy.
“As much as personal success and accolades are great, there’s nothing like coming together with a team, and everybody’s holding up that trophy and you can taste the champagne, you’re freezing cold and soaking wet. That’s like a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
Hudson finally got to experience that in 2014 after 16 major-league seasons, when he was part of the Giants’ team that defeated the Kansas City Royals in a memorable seven-game World Series. Hudson had signed with the Giants before the season hoping for a chance to win the World Series ring that had eluded him his entire career. That it worked out that way, he said Friday, was like a “fairy tale.”
“I hadn’t had those kinds of emotions on a baseball field since my rookie year,” Hudson said of pitching in the World Series. “It was refreshing to get that feeling again.”
On Oct. 29, Hudson found himself starting Game 7 against the Royals, exiting after 1 2/3 innings as manager Bruce Bochy maneuvered his bullpen strings in a do-or-die game. But the Giants might not even have been in Kansas City if not for Hudson’s performance in Game 2 of the N.L. Division Series in Washington, in which he held the Nationals to one run in 7 1/3 innings, keeping the Giants in a game they went on to win in the 18th.
Teammates at the time said Hudson’s veteran presence had an effect on the clubhouse. But Hudson acknowledged Friday that, playing in his first World Series alongside some teammates who were in their third, made him feel like “the rookie.”
“These guys are all cool and calm and laughing,” Hudson said. “And I’m over here biting my fingernails and taking 10 leaks every 10 minutes. It was a strange deal for me. I hadn’t felt like that in a long, long time. It was awesome.”
Bochy recalled that Zito’s win over Verlander in 2010 served to “really kick-start us and build momentum that led us to that sweep there.” Of Hudson’s start against the Nationals, he said: “Without his effort we don’t win that game, and ... it could be a different outcome in that series.”
“The fact that both of them, with their great careers, have World Series rings, I’m happy for them,” Bochy said.
Zito said he thinks it’s “just cool to have a little stake in both of the (Bay Area) teams’ histories.” The left-hander’s soaring early career in Oakland gave way to a rockier time after he signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with the Giants, for whom he went 63-80 in seven seasons. Zito said Friday he views it as “both sides” of his career.
“One was me being kind of a kid,” Zito said. “The other one was, you gotta take your knocks like a man and keep your chin up. Don’t run out on the media after a poor game and things like that. I don’t think I ever did that in San Fran – but I can tell you what, I really wanted to.”
Hudson said that despite his World Series ring bearing a Giants logo, “some of my best memories in baseball were when I was here in Oakland.” And he said it’s fitting that he and Zito should face each other one more time in the city where their careers began.
“I hope,” Hudson said, “the reception’s going to be good for both of us.”