ARLINGTON -- Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson has been solid overall in May, despite his team’s shortcomings, but the one challenge he hadn’t seemed able to master this season was a lineup full of left-handers.
That’s exactly what the Rangers threw at Hudson on Saturday night -- they started six lefties and two switch-hitters -- and this time, in an 8-2 victory, he handled the situation much more deftly than in his first nine games of 2019, when he allowed a .388 batting average to left-handed hitters.
Hudson needed only 87 pitches to get through six innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits with two walks and five strikeouts. He credited pitching coach Mike Maddux’s recent advice on how to deal with a lefty-heavy lineup.
“It’s just about how I approach it and my execution,” Hudson said. “I had a good meeting with Maddux earlier this week and it was not about what the lefties are doing, but what I’m doing with the lefties. I think execution was a big part of that and gave me confidence going into the start. … I feel like I’m getting better out there.”
Given how little support he has received from his offense, Hudson’s performance has been a pleasant reprieve in a mostly forgettable stretch for the Cardinals. Saturday marked his first win since April 27. The Cardinals dropped his last three starts, even though he posted a 3.18 ERA over 17 innings, and he shouldered the loss in two of those games, with St. Louis scoring only one run of support in each.
On Saturday, the toughest jam Hudson worked into, and out of, happened almost immediately after his outing began more than two hours late due to thunderstorms at Globe Life Park. Hudson walked the leadoff hitter and allowed a single, but got a grounder to third and Matt Carpenter made an alert decision to throw home and induce a rundown. Hudson escaped the inning unscathed.
After the early peril, Hudson was able to pitch with the lead in his last four innings, as the Cardinals manufactured a run on a single, error, wild pitch and RBI groundout by Paul DeJong to go ahead 1-0. St. Louis added five runs in the fifth, batting around and getting a two-run double from DeJong, to give Hudson a comfortable margin. He was dinged for two runs after yielding back-to-back hits to start the fifth inning, but followed that with a perfect sixth.
“Dakota did a really nice job,” manager Mike Shildt said. “The first inning was big, able to wiggle out of a jam right there. Carp makes a nice play, good decision to come home, execute the rundown. … [Hudson] gets out of the inning, he settles in, we score, add on and he righted the ship after a couple of runs, got through the sixth and did a nice job.”
Bounces eventually go Cardinals’ way
After Friday’s loss, the Cardinals had trudged to a 4-12 record in May, and Shildt once again noted that they just didn’t seem to be able to get the timely hits. Instead, he said, they were merely racking up the “infamous ‘balls hit hard,’” as he called them.
In Saturday’s five-run fifth inning, the Cardinals hitters might have thought luck wasn’t on their side again when Carpenter hit a double off the top of the wall in left. It was initially ruled a two-run homer, but a replay review of more than two minutes reversed the call and put Carpenter back at second base and took a run off the board.
“Going through the little bit of a stretch we’re in -- or have been in, because we feel like it’s past us -- [Carpenter] hits the top of the wall and you’re like, ‘Really?’” Shildt said. “But everybody was like, ‘No, let’s keep going, come on, let’s figure out a way,’ and we were able to break through and have a big inning.”
After a walk, DeJong’s two-run double down the left-field line cured the anxiety caused by Carpenter’s near-miss.
“We finally found a ball that was hit hard that didn’t go at somebody,” Shildt said.