SAN FRANCISCO -- Tim Hudson has been around long enough, and Buster Posey has been around pennant races long enough, that they understand there's no point in getting too high when things are going well. The Giants have won 11 of 12, but afterward Hudson talked of realizing you're never as good or as bad as you think you are. Posey chose a different cliche, saying the Giants need to come in every day with a clean slate.
And you know what? They've got one.
After all the injuries and losing skids, the Giants will wake up Monday morning just one game behind the first-place Dodgers, who have dealt with their own issues this season. There have been highs and lows for both clubs, but as July quickly comes to a close, the two powerhouses in the division are right back where they started. They're right back in a heated race.
"You obviously would rather be right there than not," Posey said. "There's a lot of baseball left to be played. You've just got to keep going."
The Giants and Dodgers play seven more times this season, and there should be some new faces the next time they meet up. The Dodgers are expected to add one starter and maybe two before the July 31 deadline, and they're connected to every big name out there. The Giants, on the other hand, continue to be patient and monitor the edges of the market. They feel good about the group they've got in-house, and yes, that includes Hudson, who has struggled to find any sort of consistency. Hudson gave up three runs in five innings in Sunday's 4-3 win and has lasted just nine innings in two starts back from the DL, but teammates and coaches went out of their way to compliment him after the 27th out. Respect goes a long way in that clubhouse, and Hudson has it.
"He was pretty sharp early," Posey said, pointing out that the long fourth inning might have taken a lot out of Hudson. "All in all, I thought it was a step in the right direction."
Manager Bruce Bochy said Hudson gave him "a gutty effort."
"In the fourth inning he threw a lot of pitches and I'm sure that caught up with him," Bochy said. "Overall, I thought he threw the ball well."
Hudson said it was a so-so day, pointing out that he was a break or two away from giving up one run over six or seven innings, but then adding that he just as easily could have been knocked out after three-plus. He thought this start was pretty similar to the previous one, except his fastball command was a couple notches better. Hudson made it through the fifth and beat the A's for the first time to become the 15th MLB pitcher to top all 30 current teams. The list is an eclectic one, featuring stars like Randy Johnson and Kevin Brown, journeymen like Vicente Padilla and Kyle Lohse, the unique Jamie Moyer, the unique-in-a-different-way Barry Zito, and current pitchers like Dan Haren and A.J. Burnett.
"I'm not sure it was something on the bucket list, but it is a pretty cool thing to say you've done," Hudson said.
[PAVLOVIC: Giants notes: Aoki on his way]
The accomplishment shows Hudson has been around a long time, and the Giants aren't making any noise about bringing that run to an end. This is their rotation, Bochy has said. They're running with these guys, and that includes Hudson, who on Sunday picked up his first win since turning 40. Did pitching at 40 feel any different than pitching at 39?
"It's still hard," Hudson said, laughing. "It was hard when I was 30."
--- Joe West asked to check the baseball at one point, and Hudson said West made that decision because he had gone to his mouth on the mound but failed to wipe his hand on his jersey afterward.
"If I was cheating, I hope I'd have a little better stuff than I threw out there today," Hudson joked.
--- Santiago Casilla made it interesting. Again.
"I'm happy he's getting out of it," Bochy said. "I'd like to see it be a little easier. He's got the stuff to get out of it, that's what a closer has to have."
Bochy won't make a change until his closer costs him a few games, but the close calls are adding up. Hunter Strickland warmed up as Casilla put two runners on in the ninth.
--- One of those runners, Jake Smolinski, inexplicably took off for third and was thrown out easily. He said he missed a sign, and that was a huge out for Casilla. Posey was caught off guard when Smolinski took off.
"But the runner was right there in front of me, so once he breaks it just becomes about instincts," Posey said.
The catcher gunned two runners Sunday and had a season-high four hits. Posey all of a sudden is hitting .328, putting him fourth in the league, so, attention Bryce Harper and Paul Goldschmidt: You've got some serious company in the MVP race. Harper has a big head start and Goldschmidt (and Zack Greinke and others) have been on his heels, but this award is won in August and September. Posey has put himself in position to chase a second MVP trophy.
--- I've run out of things to say about Matt Duffy. Buster? "He's only going to get better," Posey said, noting Duffy's great approach at the plate.
--- Bochy has now sent 15 different pitchers to the plate, and for that we thank him. It's been good for my ALL-CAPS-TWITTER-WARNING business, and it's been fun to watch. Lopez was the latest to get a plate appearance, and he picked up his first sacrifice bunt since 2004. The rules of being a beat writer say you have to give a relief pitcher a chance to crow about such a productive plate appearance. Lopez went pitch by pitch, ending with, "Fourth pitch, sac, sorry 'bout it ... It was magic."
Relief pitchers tend to remember these moments in their careers, and Lopez -- after a couple beats to think -- was able to recall that his last bunt came when he was a member of the Colorado Rockies 11 years ago. He then pointed out that he should have more than two career sacrifices and one career hit. As Lopez tells it, catcher Charles Johnson (who was reaaaaally slow) cost him a sac or two because Lopez would get a bunt down and Johnson would get thrown out at second, leaving Lopez with a fielder's choice.
I looked it up and on May 14, 2003, Lopez put down a bunt and the pitcher forced Johnson out with a throw to second. In July of that year, Lopez picked up his first hit, a two-out RBI single against the Diamondbacks. He says he should have had a second hit a year later, when he put down a perfect sac bunt against Jim Brower and the Giants and beat the throw to first. Eleven years later, Lopez -- who shows some serious speed during bullpen workouts -- insists that he was safe.
"I needed replay," he said.
The point of all this? Well it's simple, really: Kill the DH.