09/30/2003 9:00 PM ET
A's hope Hudson has Sox's number
Game 1 starter eager to put past struggles behind him
OAKLAND -- It was surprising to just about everyone but the Twins themselves when Minnesota beat the Athletics in last year's American League Division Series.
By Kent Schacht / MLB.com
More surprising still was the way it happened, with the underdog Twins jumping all over Tim Hudson, who started Games 1 and 4, on the way to two of those three wins.
Hudson, Oakland's right-handed ace and team leader, ranged from uncharacteristically ordinary to just plain bad in those two outings, going 0-1 and allowing 11 runs -- six earned -- in 8 2/3 innings with a 6.23 ERA over the two starts.
Those kinds of numbers go with Hudson -- a hard-nosed country boy from Alabama with a 31-15 record and an ERA of 2.85 over the last two seasons -- about as well as Armani suits and techno music.
That's why when it came out after the postseason that Hudson had been pitching with a sore hip, his performance, and Oakland's third consecutive first-round out in the playoffs, made a little more sense.
And that's why this year, Hudson, who will start Game 1 on Wednesday for Oakland, is feeling hungry to erase three years of postseason struggles.
"I know that personally I didn't do as well as I would have liked last year. I think there are a lot of guys on the team that probably feel the same way," he said.
Hudson, singing a popular tune around the A's clubhouse since clinching their fourth straight playoff birth last week, said the secret to advancing is for the club to go out and eliminate mistakes.
"We have to go out there and play our game and not make the little mistakes that have killed us in the past. I think that's one big reason why we've had a tough time in the playoffs, we've made little mistakes that have opened the door for the other team," he said. "If we can go play clean baseball, we'll be OK."
That said, Hudson said it was his pitches, not his presence, that opened the door for the Twins last season.
"I had a little nagging-hip thing last year, but it wasn't severe enough to keep from pitching and to keep me from going out there and keep me from making quality pitches," he said.
"This time of year, there are a lot of guys that are going out there and playing through little nicks and bruises, but it's the postseason. Your team is playing for a championship. You have to step it up a few notches."
Hudson has been stepping up all season for Oakland, leading the A's in innings pitched (240), ERA (2.70) and wins (16). And the way he's pitched all season and over the last couple of weeks, his skipper is confident that Hudson should have no trouble doing that.
"I don't think he had his best stuff in September until the last outing against Texas (on Sept. 24)," Ken Macha said. "The last outing in Texas was his best outing of the month. The ball was sinking good, he had good location, he pitched very well that day. I feel good he's going to go in with his good stuff tomorrow."
Macha said that after Hudson's start on Wednesday, he expects the right-hander to take his customary role as head cheerleader and team leader on the bench.
With the kind of intensity that he brings to throwing and guiding the A's, Hudson has struggled at times this season with getting too pumped up for some starts. That makes his sinker flatten out, giving him trouble.
That didn't happen during his best start of the season -- and the only time he pitched against the Red Sox this season.
In that two-hit shutout on Aug. 11 -- against Boston's Game 1 starter Pedro Martinez, coincidentally -- Hudson kept his emotions under control, something he expects to do on Wednesday.
"Your main objective is just to make pitches and not try to overthrow and not try to make everything more nasty than it is," he said. "You have to trust your stuff and get those guys ready behind you to make plays."
Kent Schacht is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.