Hudson may lose spot in rotation after tough loss to Reds

August 31st, 2022

CINCINNATI -- Right-hander Dakota Hudson’s time in the Cardinals' rotation may be nearing an end.

With a little more than a month to play in the regular season and injured righty Jack Flaherty nearing a return, there’s about to be one less spot in the rotation. The 27-year-old Hudson seems to be the odd man out.

Hudson lasted just 4 2/3 innings, while giving up five runs on nine hits and one walk, in a 5-1 loss to the Reds on Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park.

Hudson kept Cincinnati in check through two innings before trouble began in the bottom of the third. A leadoff single by third baseman Alejo Lopez started a string of five consecutive hits, including a two-run blast by catcher Austin Romine. Hudson was able to work around a base hit the following inning before three consecutive singles in the fifth loaded the bases. Donovan Solano grounded into a double play to score Jonathan India from third, which ended his outing.

Aside from Romine’s home run, Hudson was able to keep the ball on the ground with his sinker, but still, the Reds were able to find soft spots. In the third, Jake Fraley doubled into the left-field corner for an RBI, and Kyle Farmer chopped a ball through the shift in right to score Fraley in the next at-bat.

It was just one of those days for Hudson, who fell to 7-7 on the season with the loss.

“I felt all right with it. I kept the ball on the ground for the most part,” Hudson said. “Romine put a good swing on a good pitch, but other than that, it felt like a lot of ill-timed shift beaters.”

Hudson is amid the most difficult stretch of his five-season career. He’s struggled through his past 15 starts, posting a 5.09 ERA with 83 hits allowed in 81 1/3 innings. In his last start against the Cubs, however, he delivered one of his finest starts of the season, firing seven innings of two-run ball.

“I’m putting the ball in the zone consistently, I’m able to throw all my pitches and then I’m able to see the adjustments -- the smaller part of the game,” Hudson added. “I felt like my execution arguably was better today than it was [last time out] against the Cubs. It’s just unfortunately part of how the game goes sometimes.”

His skipper agreed with his sentiment.

“[Hudson] actually executed some pitches and still got beat,” manager Oliver Marmol said. “At the end of the day, their lineup was better than his pitches tonight. Some well-executed pitches at the bottom of the zone, they beat the shift several times, and then Romine got him to right-center. But overall, [he] threw strikes [and] got beat.”

Keeping the ball on the ground with soft contact is often the best way to beat a sinkerball pitcher, and Reds manager David Bell’s lineup made the adjustments early in the game to knock Hudson out.

“He's a very good pitcher,” Bell said. “We've faced him a lot. Really good stuff, can be very tough to hit. I really liked our approach at the plate. We had 11 hits, I believe 10 of them were to the opposite field. With that type of sinker, when you can stay on the ball and not try to do too much with it, good things can happen.”

A solo home run by Tommy Edman in the third inning was all the Cardinals’ offense could muster. Hudson has now received one run or fewer of run support in five of his past nine games.

Marmol has gone with a five-man rotation throughout the season, and while he said he’s considered the possibility of expanding to a six-pitcher rotation, he said it would take Hudson’s continued improvement and consistency to do so.

Regardless of the competition brewing for starts moving forward, Hudson has made it clear he’s focused on finding his role with the team, whatever that may mean down the stretch.

“Great teams are always competitive. [Jake Woodford] has been throwing the ball really well, Jack [Flaherty] will be a great addition to have back, it’s just part of it,” Hudson said. “I’m trying to do what I can to be a part of that going forward. I know we’re going to win, so I just want to figure out what my piece is going forward and be a part of it.”