In pitchers’ duel that continued into the late innings of a scoreless tie, the Nats bullpen took center stage. After the Nats finally got on the board, a pair of power relievers completed the shutout.
Max Scherzer pitched into the eighth, but gave up a single and later a walk in that inning. With one out and men on the corners, manager Davey Martinez went to his bullpen for Hudson.
Facing the aggressive Teoscar Hernández with no score in the game, Hudson managed to get him to hit the ball on the ground to Trea Turner, who started a big double play to end the frame.
“It was kind of a weird at-bat,” Hudson said on a video call. “I jumped ahead with two fastballs. He didn’t really offer at any of them, so I didn’t know if he was on time for it or not. I didn’t want to throw him something to speed up his bat, so I just tried to stay hard with him, basically throw it down the middle. Trea made a great play. He hit it really hard but it goes down as a 6-4-3, and I’ll take it and get out of the inning.”
Hudson then came back out and pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth with three punchouts of the heart of the Blue Jays order. He struck out Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. looking, and then struck out the dangerous Vladimir Guerrero Jr. swinging to send the game into extra innings.
So, who has the advantage when facing former teammates when you have a lot of familiarity within the matchup?
“It can help but it can also hurt,” said Hudson, who came to the Nats at last year’s trading deadline from Toronto. “I’ve had it both ways where I’ve pitched against former teams and got my butt kicked. It’s just kind of roll the dice. It can go in their favor too. A lot of those guys stood behind me and watched me throw for three, four months last year, so they kind of know what I have. You know the pitching coaches over there, they all know what I have. I’m not up there trying to trick anybody anyway. I got a couple of things I do well and I just stick with that.”
With his success in high-leverage situations last season, especially in the World Series, Hudson looks comfortable in those situations as the 2020 season begins.
“I don’t know if there is a comfort level that comes with it,” Hudson said. “That’s a do-or-die situation right there. Go-ahead run is on third base, tie game. Max pitched his butt off tonight. You are just trying to make a quality pitch and get out of it. Obviously, the more you do come into those situations, you kind of get - not the hang of it, I don’t think you ever do - but maybe the jitters aren’t quite as high and maybe you are just a little more comfortable and feel like you can execute more pitches that way.”
The Nats bullpen was not done. After scoring four runs in the top of the tenth, as the designated away team, they still needed to record three outs to win the game.
Enter Rainey, fresh off notching four outs Tuesday night.
With a man on second base to begin the extra inning per the new rules, Rainey struck out Rowdy Tellez looking.
Home plate umpire Stu Scheurwater threw Tellez out of the game when Tellez angrily disputed the call. Scheurwater ejected Blue Jays coach Dante Bichette too.
Rainey continued on to strike out Danny Jansen and Brandon Drury. But the final pitch to Drury got away from catcher Kurt Suzuki, and Drury made it to first base safely.
Unfazed, Rainey continued on and got Santiago Espinal to fly out to center field to end the game.
Hudson (1-0) and Rainey came in and won the game for Scherzer, recording eight outs, six by strikeout, ending the Nats three-game losing streak.
“Those two guys are pitching well,” manager Davey Martinez said in his postgame video call. “I’m very pleased with Huddy. I love him. He goes out there and takes the ball whenever he’s called upon. And his velo was really good today. I think he was pumped up today. After that double play, he goes back out there and strikes out the side.
“Give the ball to Rainey, and Rainey’s been pitching well and he does the same thing. Our pitching has been good. We scored four runs. We didn’t care about that guy on second base. We told him: Don’t worry about the guy on second base. You’re just here to get three outs. He did a great job for us.”
Scherzer battled for seven-plus innings, throwing 112 pitches and then watched as Hudson and Rainey finished off the Blue Jays to get the Nats on the board in this series. As a power pitcher himself, Scherzer respects the hard throwing from Hudson and Rainey.
“Credit to those guys,” Scherzer said. “Those guys are really working hard. Obviously, it shows. To really be able to come out here and get these big outs, but also do it, I think, on back-to-backs for both of them. That’s the sign of a good reliever, is not only being able to do it once, but do it twice, maybe three times.
“They’re getting into the swing of things and they want the ball. You know that. It’s really encouraging to see those guys at the back end of the bullpen throwing well because they are huge for us. They get the big outs when you need it. Hopefully, we keep them healthy and keep them going and keep winning ballgames.”