Do the Giants have a leg up?


San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Hudson wants to know what the Nationals have between their legs, even if it’s none of his business.

“Obviously they have a talented group over there, there’s no question,” Hudson said by way of the Washington Post. “They have some great pitching. But come playoff time, talent can take you a long ways, but what do you have between your legs? That’s going to take you real far. And I think we’ve got a group in here that really has some of that.”

That information might be personal, but Hudson thinks it’s pertinent to the National League divisional series which opens Friday. Obviously, Hudson thinks the Nationals lack something, and it rhymes with falls, which he wants to remind his opponent is what they did the last time they were in the playoffs.

The Nationals lost that series in five to the Cardinals, frittering away a lead in the ninth inning of the deciding game. Those 2012 Nats won the most games in the regular season, but not enough in the playoffs, and these Nats tied for the most wins.

Maybe Hudson, whose control is pretty good, isn’t aiming between the Nationals’ legs, but at another part of their anatomy — between their ears. Maybe Hudson meant his barb for closer Drew Storen, who was a strike away from ending the 2012 series on three batters, or Game 1 starter Stephen Strasburg, who probably chomped as he was held out of the series by the Nats’ self-imposed innings limit.

Hudson’s might seem a low blow, but gamesmanship is part of the game, too. If he thinks he can gain an advantage by questioning the Nationals’ manhood, then he’s entitled to ask. But he better be prepared to back it up.

Because it wasn’t 2013 world champion Jake Peavy or 2012 World Series closer Sergio Romo who asked if the Nats had what it takes. It was Hudson, who’s lost all six playoff series he’s pitched in.

Maybe Hudson should look down and worry about what’s between his legs, given his 1-3 record in nine postseason starts and how he couldn’t hold a five-run lead in the 2005 NLDS. Maybe Hudson should worry about his arm, given the 0-4 record and 8.72 ERA he put up in September. When Hudson says “we’ve got a group in here that really has some of that,” should he be including himself? Because a lot of Giants have won two World Series, but Hudson isn’t one of them.

It won’t be easy for the Giants to win a third World Series, and not just because of their opponent. They’ve lost center fielder and leadoff hitter Angel Pagan to back surgery. Michael Morse, who slugged .475, may not be healthy enough to make the roster. Madison Bumgarner, the best pitcher in the series, will start only once because he had to pitch the wild-card game Wednesday. Peavy, who had a 2.17 ERA in 12 starts with the Giants, has a 9.27 ERA in five career postseason starts, none longer than the 5.2 innings he went in the ALDS last year. If we’re doing cup checks, should we start there?

Hudson isn’t Joe Panik, who’s got a half season of big-league experience. He’s 39, a veteran of 16 seasons and winner of 214 games, nearing the end of an awfully good career. Maybe he knows what he said and what he’s doing. And maybe he made the task in what just might be his last postseason harder.

  • St. Louis vs. L.A. Dodgers: The Cardinals beat the Dodgers in six games in last year’s NLCS, but it doesn’t seem likely to happen again. This year’s Dodgers scored 99 runs more than the Cardinals and had a better team ERA (3.40 to 3.50). And they can pitch Clayton Kershaw in 40% of the series’s potential games instead of 29%.
    The Cardinals won 90 games in 2014, but their +16 run differential was just five runs better than the Mets, who won 79.
    They’ve advanced to three straight NLCS, but this team doesn’t seem as good. The bullpen is cracking, they don’t score runs and Michael Wacha has been hurting.
    The Angels won 98 games, more than any team in baseball, but they might not even be the best team in their city. Speaking of …
  • Royals 3, Angels 2: The defensive metrics weren’t kind this year to Royals outfielder Norichika Aoki, but you couldn’t tell it Thursday night. Aoki made two-out, run-saving catches in the sixth and seventh innings, one at the wall as Lorenzo Cain leapt and missed and one stumbling on the warning track. Aoki had a smile for every catch and maybe even for his -1.3 WAR on defense, and the Royals went on to win on a Mike Moustakas home run in the 11th.
    That’s 23 innings the Royals have played in winning two games, but they have the bullpen for it — moreso than the Angels. The Royals saved Greg Holland for the final inning, and he saved it on 11 pitches (one a bad call on a checked-swing third strike on Erick Aybar). The Angels were down to Fernando Salas in the 11th, and he had a 9.64 ERA in September.
    The Royals also got two good catches from center fielder Cain. Aoki swerved on the second catch like a vehicle using two lanes of traffic. He didn’t look trustworthy, but neither did the Angels.
  • Orioles 12, Tigers 3: That eight-run eighth inning would explain why Joe Nathan is the closer. Apparently, everyone else is worse.
    Until the eighth, it was a game the Tigers might have won. They hit three homers, exhausted Baltimore starter Chris Tillman after five, and put an 0-for-5 on Adam Jones, who’s now 2-for-31 career in the postseason.
    But they also fell behind in the first, lined into a double play, allowed the Orioles to score in both half innings after the Tigers did and committed two errors.
    By the time the bullpen was done giving up seven runs to get two outs, they were done.
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