Hudson rescues Giants with big-time stop

AT&T PARK — The Giants came into Thursday afternoon’s series finale against the Nationals on the brink of an historic feat: Falling in a four-game sweep at AT&T Park.

Photos by Godofredo Vasquez/SFBay

The Giants haven’t been swept at home in a four-game series since the Candlestick days — September 1996 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, to be exact.

San Francisco fought uphill against first-place Washington in the first three matchups, but got back in the groove behind hot-handed Tim Hudson with a convincing 7-1 win to avoid the sweep.

Hudson (W, 7-2, 1.81 ERA) pitched seven innings without allowing an earned run and dropped his ERA to an MLB-leading 1.81 among starters, just ahead of Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto (1.85). The Giants have yet to lose this season when Hudson pitches at AT&T Park.

In an act out of step with the rest of the series, the Giants took the first lead in the second inning, and never lost it. Tyler Colvin smashed a triple to the Levi Landing bricks that brought Michael Morse home from first. A Brandon Crawford grounder scored Colvin to make it 2-0 Giants.

Manager Bruce Bochy explained how taking the initial lead, and a 1-2-3 first inning from Tim Hudson that subdued Washington’s offense from the get-go, set the tone for the rest of the game:

“I thought (the first inning) was important, but what was more important is that we scored first because, gosh, we haven’t done that in a while and Colvy (Colvin), he got us going with that triple to give us an early lead … But it was great to see (Hudson) go out there in the first inning and make his pitches and get us back in the dugout.”

Colvin, who before today had managed just six hits in 42 at bats, kept the offense pumping alongside Morse (3-for-4), Brandon Crawford (2-for-4) and Hunter Pence, who reached base on all four of his at bats.

Bochy talked about Colvin’s impact as an intermittent starter:

“He’s had some back issues I know that’s affected him and I’ve been trying to mix it up between him and Blanco. He’s a good hitter, he’s put together some good years. I think with him it’s a matter of staying healthy. I like him coming off the bench, he gives you good defense too and he’s a good baserunner… He’s always a threat up there.”

The offense continued its momentum in the sixth with consecutive singles from Sandoval and Morse. Craig Stammen, relieving for Nationals starting pitcher Blake Treinen (L, 0-3, 2.08 ERA), balked to bring Sandoval home from third and move Morse to second.

Gregor Blanco, pinch hitting for Ehire Adrianza, hit a soft line-drive single to left to bring Morse home and give the Giants the 4-1 lead. San Francisco would go on to score one in the seventh inning and two more in the eighth to cap off a commanding win.

The Nationals scored their only run in the fourth when Adam LaRoche, who singled, reached second on a pass ball and Ryan Zimmerman singled him home in the following at bat.

Hudson notched five strikeouts and forced 10 ground outs to contain the Nationals’ sporadic offensive threats.

The Nats attempted an offensive rally in the fifth with the Giants up 2-1. Kevin Frandsen and Jose Lobaton hit consecutive singles to set up Treinen with runners on the corners and no outs. Hudson struck Treinen out on bunts and forced Denard Span to hit into a double play to end the inning.

Washington’s bats stayed quiet under Hudson’s commanding spell through his departure. Jean Machi, who is running on a 23 inning scoreless streak, the longest active in the Majors, allowed one hit in relief and Sergio Romo struck out three in the ninth to seal the game.

The Giants welcome the Colorado Rockies to AT&T Park with three-game weekend series beginning Friday at 7:15 p.m.

Notes

The Nationals came into Wednesday’s game with an MLB-leading 2.23 ERA and its starters had only allowed one walk dating back to June 4. After today, Washington falls behind Oakland in the ERA standings with 2.94 and Treinen allowed three walks — the most by a Nationals’ starting pitcher since May 22. … The Giants’ homer-less streak extended to six games, the longest time without one since last June. … Santiago Casilla is scheduled to pitch one inning for AA San Jose tonight to begin rehab on his strained right hamstring. … Brandon Belt, who is still out with a broken thumb, was out on the field taking grounders before the game. He said his thumb didn’t hurt anymore, but it will be a while before he can grip a bat. … The Giants sold out their 280th regular season home game.

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