Oakland's second starter stifles Yankees in Game 2
Updated: Friday October 12, 2001 3:23 AM
By Jamal Greene, Sports Illustrated
NEW YORK -- Tim Hudson is easy to root for. He's so frail that his teammates affectionately refer to him as "the little guy." Listed at 6-foot-1 and 165 pounds (though curiously shorter than A's pitching coach Rick Peterson, who is listed at 6'0), he's Peter Pan in a world of Incredible Hulks.
After graduating from high school he found himself at Chattahoochee Valley Community College in Phenix City, Ala., because no college offered him a baseball scholarship.
What's more, he hasn't pitched in the best of luck. He has won 20 and 18 games, respectively, the past two seasons and his .742 winning percentage is the highest in A's franchise history, but in neither 2000 nor 2001 has he had the honor of pitching the first game of a playoff series.
He didn't start Game 1 against the Yankees last season because Oakland battled Seattle and Cleveland for the final two playoff spots until the last day of the season, meaning they couldn't set up their rotation for the Division Series. Gil Heredia, Oakland's No. 3 starter last season, got the nod and won the ALDS opener against the Yankees but lost Game 5. Hudson didn't get the Game 1 start this year because Mark Mulder won 21 games.
Said Oakland manager Art Howe: "The reason we went with him No. 2 is he's always been able to gut it up for us in big games."
Hudson isn't bitter.
"I know what I bring to the table every time I come out and pitch, and if there's somebody on our staff who can go out and catch the headlines in front of me, I'm happy," Hudson said.
It's not just turns of the rotation that have gone against Hudson. In his first postseason start, a loss in Game 3 of last year's Division Series, he pitched a complete-game six hitter and the game-winning run was unearned.
There would be no such bad karma this time.
Hudson threw first-pitch strikes to 14 of the first 16 batters he faced. He kept his pitch count down early, throwing just 56 pitches in the first five innings. His first three-ball count wasn't until the fifth inning, when he walked Jorge Posada. Hudson allowed just six balls to leave the infield, inducing grounder after grounder on his sharp-breaking sinker, and at one point he retired 12 straight Yankees.
"He made all the right pitches at the right times," said Yankees catcher Jorge Posada.
The first time Hudson got in trouble, when Paul O'Neill worked a 2-0 count against him with two on and two down in the sixth, Hudson threw two perfect offspeed pitches, knee high and trimming the black, to get the count back in his favor before getting O'Neill to fly out to center. The second time, when Scott Brosius batted with two on and two outs in the seventh, he induced a weak grounder to second.
The Yankees had won Andy Pettitte's past nine postseason starts. Two of his eight postseason wins were 1-0 games.
"We're getting beat at our own game," said right fielder Paul O'Neill. "These are the kinds of games we usually win in the playoffs."
Luck may have finally switched sides.