ST. LOUIS -- Over the past six weeks, Daniel Hudson has posted a 2.81 ERA. He's held opponents to a .182 batting average, allowing 10 hits in 16 innings over his past 18 outings entering Saturday.One problem: Hudson has been scored upon in four of those 18 appearances, and four
ST. LOUIS -- Over the past six weeks, Daniel Hudson has posted a 2.81 ERA. He's held opponents to a .182 batting average, allowing 10 hits in 16 innings over his past 18 outings entering Saturday.
One problem: Hudson has been scored upon in four of those 18 appearances, and four of those 10 hits have been home runs. Hudson allowed another key homer Friday night, a go-ahead shot by Paul DeJong, before the Pirates came back to win, 4-3.
"You think, 'OK, he's doing all right,' but then the damage done has been game-swinging," manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's hard for anybody."
It's particularly hard for Hudson, who signed a two-year, $11 million deal to serve as a setup man. His early-season struggles bumped him down the bullpen pecking order, then a strong stretch with cleaner mechanics pushed him back into a setup role in front of Juan Nicasio and Felipe Rivero.
Hudson thought he gave up a homer to Aledmys Diaz, batting leadoff in Friday's seventh inning, but Andrew McCutchen tracked down Diaz's fly ball. Hudson then ran the count full against DeJong, who blasted a 95.1-mph fastball into the Cardinals' bullpen. Hudson crouched down on the mound, shaking his head.
"It just seems to be a lane that he's in right now that can be confusing. It could be disheartening," Hurdle said. "We're going to push through that. We're going to hunt the good with him. He understands the value that he can add to this team. My focus is to get him to maintain his focus, his competitive nature."
In 36 appearances this season entering Saturday, Hudson has allowed six homers, as many as he did in 60 1/3 innings for the D-backs last year. His 17.6 percent home run-to-fly ball rate is the highest of his career and nearly 4 percent above the Major League average, which has climbed 1.1 percent from last year and 2.5 percent since 2015.
"Seems like when the ball goes in the air, it's a homer, but that's kind of how everybody's going through things right now across the entire league," Hudson said. "Hopefully, just stop making mistakes with the fastball and get the ball on the ground a little bit more."
All six of the homers Hudson has allowed this season have been on fastballs. He is walking a fine line, knowing his high-spin fastball is more effective up in the strike zone but aware that mistakes up in the zone tend to get punished.
"Just one or two mistakes, and they're getting hit over the fence," Hudson said. "Hopefully, cut down on those, try to get the ball on the ground and miss bats more would be ideal. It is what it is. Can't really explain it other than missed locations."
Around the horn
• Right-hander Joshua Lindblom was reinstated from the 10-day disabled list (left side discomfort) on Saturday and assigned outright to Triple-A Indianapolis, where he had been on a rehab assignment since May 27.
• Sunday is the final day of reliever Antonio Bastardo's 30-day rehab assignment in Indianapolis. Out since April 25 with a left quad strain, Bastardo has pitched a scoreless inning in each of his last three appearances. It is unclear what the Pirates will do with Bastardo, but Hurdle said the club will make a move by Tuesday.
• Shortstop Cole Tucker, the Pirates' No. 5 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, was activated off the seven-day disabled list on Saturday and returned to the Class A Advanced Bradenton roster. Tucker had been sidelined since June 2 due to a fractured right thumb.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.