OAKLAND — Forget the result — a 2-1 victory over the A's — for a second and focus on this: For the second straight day, the Giants simply played good, hard, clean baseball. A team that looked lost all spring has settled in a bit in the days before the opener.
Tim Hudson gave the Giants five strong innings, Justin Maxwell smashed a ball down the line with a runner in scoring position and the Giants played good defense. The bullpen got scoreless innings from Tim Lincecum and George Kontos, and Hunter Strickland got Javier Lopez out of a jam in the bottom of the ninth.
“We feel like it’s going in the right direction,” Hudson said. “Things have gotten a little better for us the last week here. I think we’re going to be fine.”
Nobody is picking the Giants to win another World Series. Few national reporters even have them in the playoff race, but Hudson said that’s just fine with the clubhouse. They were the underdogs last October, he pointed out. Told by a reporter that those rings came courtesy of a left-hander, Madison Bumgarner, who seemingly pitched every day, Hudson smiled.
“He’s still here,” he said.
Starting pitching report: Hudson gave up four hits, walked two and struck out one in his scoreless start. He said his arm strength isn’t all the way there, but he feels pretty good overall.
“This was a nice little confidence boost going into the season,” he said. “I feel good about it.”
Hudson threw 81 pitches in his final spring start and said he has a bit more in the tank for his regular season debut.
Bullpen report: Lincecum pitched a scoreless inning in the seventh and became the fourth current or former Giants starter to take the mound. The others: Hudson, Yusmeiro Petit and Barry Zito, who pitched the top of the sixth for the A’s and got two grounders and a strikeout. Hudson watched from the dugout as his former teammate and good friend got a standing ovation as he jogged on the field.
“That was kinda cool,” he said. “All we needed was (Mark) Mulder go down there to the bullpen and warming up and coming in after him.”
As Hudson spoke to the media, Mulder, the third member of the famous trio, tweeted: “While Zito and Huddy are being studs on the mound, I played golf, watched my son's ball game, and now watching my #Spartans.”
At the plate: Bochy has already named Nori Aoki his leadoff hitter, in part because Aoki had much better at-bats late in the Cactus League season. After coming home with an eight-game hitting streak, Aoki went 0 for 10 in this series. He finished the spring with a .194 average, so it’ll be interesting to see how long a leash he gets atop the lineup.
In the field: Matt Duffy is getting more and more comfortable at third base, and it shows. Duffy made a nick pick of a short-hop grounder to get Hudson an out in the fourth inning. This came after a couple busy innings at second base for Duffy, a shortstop by trade who is also taking fly balls.
“He’s just a baseball player,” Hudson said. “He’s a guy that goes out there and does a lot of different things on the infield. He’s really hungry to get his big league career started … As a utility guy, he brings a lot to the team.”
By the time the Giants fly to Phoenix on Sunday, we’ll know if that team is this one or based in Sacramento.
Attendance: A total of 29,553, some of whom wore those janky split-Giants-A’s caps.
Up next: A day off, people. A day off.