By the middle of the seventh inning young Daniel Hudson had thrown 90-plus pitches. What happened next says a lot about the future of this team.
After giving up a home run to the second batter he faced in the game, Hudson was brilliant for the next five innings. His change-up was a few miles per hour less than normal but he said it had more depth and certainly was effective against the Giant's hitters who only managed three hits and one walk off the righty in the middle innings. His fastball continued to be lively and well under control.
Going into the seventh the Diamondbacks held a slim 2-1 lead over Barry Zito's Giants and Daniel, after striking out the first batter, gave up a single to big Pablo "Panda" Sandoval. Darren Ford pinch-running for the Panda stole second and then Giants infielder Juan Uribe moved the runner to third on a ground ball to the right side setting up a big two out situation.
Hudson then wisely pitched around the eighth man in the order, Cody Ross, forcing the Giants to lift ace Barry Zito for a pinch hitter, lefty Travis Ishikawa.
It's a pivotal moment in the game with Hudson facing a the prospect of giving up a tying run and a lefty (veteran Mike Hampton) ready in the Diamondbacks bullpen.
Manager Kirk Gibson has talked about putting his young players in pressure situations so he could see how they handle themselves and to teach them valuable lessons for the future when hopefully, games will matter much more. With that in mind, it really wasn't too big of a surprise that Gibby let Hudson face Ishikawa.
Daniel came through with flying colors, inducing an innning-ending ground ball to first.
"I've got all the confidence in the world in myself that I know I can get out of that situation and it really means a lot to me that he (Gibson) has the same confidence that I do that I can get myself out of that jam," Hudson said.
Gibby retold the report from his pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, Jr. who after visiting with Hudson on the mound before facing Ishikawa said that Hudson was 'calm' and ready to go.
Forget the win that is meaningless in the standings for this team deep in the cellar. It's moments like these that the last few weeks of the season are all about.
Not only does Hudson gain confidence from getting out of the jam and the fans can get just a little more excited about next season but you better believe the rest of the guys in the club house notice too.
"He's throwing well for us and we're glad to have him," Stephen Drew said.
Drew was offensive star of the night scoring the go-ahead run in the third after a lead off triple and then batting in a late insurance run in the seventh with two outs and a runner on second.
Catcher Miguel Montero said he was most impressed with Hudson's command of his fastball and says it's fun to catch him.
Hudson was basically a two pitch pitch through the first four or five innings before the slider was able to be used a bit more. It's a third pitch that Daniel has been working to develop.
Miggy said that because the slider isn't Hudson's best pitch, he only calls for it in counts where it can't hurt him. It's a balance between developing the pitch and giving Daniel confidence in it and not setting him up to get hit hard.
"I don't want to go with the breaking ball to strike 'em out somebody, just to make the hitter look something else. Just change his eye level, change his eye speed. I just try to put something down, the slider, so they can see something different and then just make the fastball even better," Montero explained about his approach to calling for Hudson's third pitch.
Another impressive aspect to Hudson's outing what his confidence and willingness to stick to his game plan after seeing Barry Enright get hit around the day prior. Both Enright and Hudson like to pitch in the strike zone and the Giants were well prepared for that.
Instead of going away from his strength in that situation and trying to get the aggressive G-men to swing at balls outside the zone, Daniel did what he does.
"Barry, I think he left a couple up in the zone, his fastball may have been a little more flat than usual. You can't really change the game plan," Hudson said adding the he and Montero were on the same page about going after the Giant's batters.
My best stuff against your best stuff. That's what you want to hear from a young man learning to win at this level.
Eventually, Hudson will have a rough night just like Enright did yesterday. We will see how Barry bounces back in a few days and at some point we will see if Hudson can maintain the confidence and aggressiveness after getting rocked a time or two. When that happens we will have learned a lot more about this quiet young man.
Hudson is now 5-1 since coming to the Diamondbacks with an ERA well under 2.0.