Ex-Jay Hudson closes out thrilling Wild Card win for Nationals

Former Toronto Blue Jays reliever Daniel Hudson got the final three outs for the Washington Nationals in their thrilling 4-3 National League Wild Card game win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night. Photo: USA Today Sports

Former Toronto Blue Jays reliever Daniel Hudson got the final three outs for the Washington Nationals in their thrilling 4-3 National League Wild Card game win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night. Photo: USA Today Sports

October 2, 2019

By Lukas Weese

Canadian Baseball Network

Daniel Hudson was the epilogue.

He recorded the final three outs in the Washington Nationals’ thrilling 4-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Wild Card game on Tuesday night.

Nationals fans hope that the outcome of this game is a step towards exorcising their club’s postseason demons. The franchise has not won a post-season series since relocating to Washington in 2005.

For Hudson, his ninth-inning shutdown performance was an unforgettable October moment.

The former Toronto Blue Jays right-hander did not think the moment to close and secure victory would come so soon. After all, the Nationals were down 3-1 to the Brewers and had only registered three hits the entire game heading into the eighth inning. With Brewers star relief pitcher Josh Hader coming onto the mound, the game’s outcome appeared to be a foregone conclusion.

But the MLB Postseason often provides a venue for the unimaginable to happen.

With the bases loaded and two outs, Nationals left fielder Juan Soto lined a single to right field, where Brewers rookie Trent Grisham made a costly error that would bring in three runs to give the Nationals the 4-3 lead. Grisham was filling in for injured 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich.

The clutch hit by Soto, who had a .949 OPS this past season with 34 home runs and 110 RBIs at age 20, will ensure that his name is etched in Nationals history.

While Nationals Park was in full-on hysteria, one task was left to complete: to protect the lead for three more outs, which would send the Nationals to the NLDS. No better pitcher than Hudson to exemplify calmness amidst the intense postseason pressure.

A strike-out, a foul out to Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki and a fly out to centre field was all the 32-year-old pitcher needed to give the Nationals the victory.

“I really didn’t have time to think. I was warming up the whole inning,” Hudson told reporters after the game. “I just went in there and tried to get three outs.”

Hudson has never backed down from adversity. A fifth-round pick by the Chicago White Sox in the 2008 MLB Draft, he was touted as a value pitcher with a solid four-seam fastball, as well as an ability to throw the sinker and slider. His 7-1 record with a 1.69 ERA with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010 demonstrated the talent and upside potential the Lynchburg, Va., native possessed at a young age.

But disaster struck in the form of two consecutive Tommy John surgeries that would knock Hudson out for the majority of the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

But the fighting spirit of Hudson could not be contained. Even after a 2-7 record with a 4.38 ERA playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2016, Hudson never lost faith in getting back to his top form.

After being let go by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018, Hudson signed a one-year deal with the Blue Jays this past spring. It was in Toronto where the Hudson of the past re-emerged. His command returned and he served as respected and approachable leader for the Blue Jays young players.

“He is a professional, he will take the ball every day,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo told reporters in late July. “He has been great out of the bullpen. Close games, he will pitch any time.”

Hudson’s 6-3 record with a 3.00 ERA and 1.27 WHIP made him a sought-after pitching asset at the trade deadline. Desperate for bullpen depth come playoff time, the Nationals took a leap of faith in acquiring Hudson from Toronto.

Even in July, Montoyo was aware of the impact Hudson would make on a Nationals team that was trending upward.

“I want Daniel Hudson to stay here. I want to win games,” Montoyo told reporters. “But if it’s better for the player to go to the playoffs and make money, extra money, maybe go to the World Series and get a ring …”

Despite the Nationals revolving around the success of their starting pitching, it was the relief pitchers who pieced together a masterful performance in front of the home fans. After Scherzer gave up three earned runs, former first overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg pitched three scoreless innings generating four strikeouts.

Strasburg’s clutch pitching paved the path for Soto’s heroics, which gave way to Hudson putting the finishing touches on the historic win.

Strasburg shined in relief. Soto lined a clutch single. But it was Hudson who solidified the Nationals’ thrilling Wild Card win on Tuesday night, which represented the beginning of a new chapter for him and his team that will be written in the post-season in the coming days.