Whicker: Nationals’ Daniel Hudson proves it’s never too late for relief

first_img Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season “I was down there warming up and I had this weird feeling something was going to happen,” Hudson said.Even though Milwaukee was using ballistic left-hander Josh Hader, that feeling persisted. It swelled when Michael Taylor took Hader into the sixth pitch and then was hit by that pitch, controversially.It mounted when Ryan Zimmerman, founding father of the Nationals, had his bat decapitated by Hader and still flared a single into no man’s land.But when Juan Soto hammered Hader’s fat breaking ball to right field and rookie right fielder Trent Grisham watched it hop under his glove, the Nationals were leading somehow, 4-3, and Hudson had a game and a season on his racket.The 32-year-old with two Tommy John surgeries and various stops with the White Sox, Diamondbacks, Pirates, Dodgers, Angels and Blue Jays now was three outs away from moving the Nationals further into the playoffs for the first time since they escaped Montreal in 2005. Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies He did that, with one hit and a game-ending fly ball by Mat Gamel, and the Nationals flew to L.A., on their own tailwind.They were 12 games under .500 on May 21 and finished 24 games over.“They say hitting can be contagious, but I think the whole way this team has been playing is contagious,” Hudson said. “We feed off each other. They were well on the way to doing this, long before I showed up.”What Hudson remembered from Monday night was the suddenness. As the three Washington baserunners were crossing the plate in the tumult, Soto was caught in between second and third and was tagged out, even though he was dancing and fist-pumping. Hudson found himself in the ring of fire.“I didn’t have time to think about anything,” he said, “except I realized that the stakes just got a lot bigger.”What it tells you is how relief pitchers remain a riddle wrapped inside an enigma and buried within a cloudbank. It is easily the least predictable part of a baseball club and probably any sports endeavor. Since it’s also the most predictive part of a club, that’s why managers often rent houses and office furniture.How could the Angels release Hudson, considering the pitching rubble to come? Well, nobody second-guessed it at the time.“I didn’t throw very well in the spring,” he said. “I gave up three hits and all of them were home runs. They released me on a Friday, the Blue Jays called on Saturday morning, I took a red-eye flight to Dunedin, Fla. on Saturday night, and then opened the season Thursday.”Hudson didn’t pitch poorly for the Blue Jays, but you had to be paying attention.“I didn’t get too many opportunities to pitch in high-leverage situations,” he said. Toronto was one of five American League teams that played .420 baseball or worse.“But that meant I was able to get a lot of work in. I got to straighten out some mechanical things. My lower body and my upper body weren’t synched up. By the time the trade was made, I was throwing pretty well.”Related Articles Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco center_img How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire Washington had called everyone but FEMA for relief. Hudson was given a save opportunity in his eighth outing. He converted it, and gave up two earned runs in his first 14 appearances, and has a 1.44 ERA. Then he saved five games in September.Hudson’s only other playoff appearance was an ill-fated start in a 2011 NL Division Series. With Arizona, he started and lost 9-4, also to Milwaukee. He was a Dodger in 2018 but a forearm injury kept him off the playoff roster.All you have to know about bullpens in 2019 is that the one belonging to the Dodgers, despite all the hypertension and gastrointestinal discomfort it caused, led the National League in WHIP (walks and hits, per innings pitched). That is only one of the reasons why they’re favored to end the Nationals’ fun.But beware the team and the pitcher that weren’t supposed to be here. LOS ANGELES — They told Daniel Hudson the ninth inning was his, no matter what.As he warmed up Monday night, all the Nationals Park scoreboards told him to take his time.Washington was trailing Milwaukee 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning of the National League wild-card game. The Nationals’ crescendo of a season was softly fading. Hudson’s job, most likely, would be damage control. In the world of the big picture, at least it was a job.The Angels had released Hudson in spring training. The Blue Jays had picked him up and then dealt him to Washington on July 31 for a minor league outfielder, which barely nudged the trade deadline tracker. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more