SAN FRANCISCO -- After 10 starts, Tim Hudson is spoiling the Giants and their fans by pitching as well as he ever has, even if he does it a bit differently than in the past.
"I hope they don't think I'm going to be this good all year," Hudson said after shutting out the Chicago Cubs for seven innings in a 4-0 Giants victory Tuesday night at AT&T Park.
After a little mid-May blip due to a hip strain and Colorado weather setback, Hudson (5-2) got back to being the masterly veteran who pitched at least six strong innings in his first eight starts.
The Cubs were no match for Hudson, who won his 210th career game with his usual combination of guile and control. He gave up six hits but didn't walk a batter and struck out five in lowering his ERA to 1.92. Further endearing himself to the home folks who gave him a standing ovation following his 96-pitch gem, the Giants are now 5-0 in his AT&T starts.
Hudson admitted afterward that he's even surprising himself a bit for a 38-year-old guy whose career was threatened by a serious ankle fracture suffered last year with Atlanta. He didn't expect to be this sharp this soon.
How's he doing it?
"Smoke and mirrors, man, smoke and mirrors," Hudson said with a grin. "They look one way, you throw it another way."
Actually, that's pretty close to the truth these days. Hudson isn't the overpowering pitcher he once was, but he has become Mr. Precision. He has issued just six walks over his first 701/3 innings, which projected over a full 200-plus inning season would destroy any previous walks-to-innings pitched ratio he's ever had.
"From a command standpoint, I think this is the best I've been, throwing strikes and letting the guys behind me make plays," he said. "At this point in my career, I don't really try to overpower anybody, I don't try to overthrow or throw through my mechanics. I just try to trust what I have and let it work. More times than not, it's been good enough to get people out."
Pablo Sandoval, who extended his RBI streak to seven games with a two-out run-scoring single in the fifth, is just glad to have Hudson on his side after a career of futility against him (3 for 19, .158).
Asked what makes Hudson such a challenge for hitters, Sandoval said, "Everything. His ball is moving. He's funky throwing, and he's sneaky. He's one of the toughest pitchers I've ever faced."
The Cubs got runners to second base just twice against Hudson. A couple of singles put runners at first and second with one out in the fourth, but the right-hander retired Luis Valbuena on a pop-up to short, then struck out Welington Castillo. With one out in the fifth, Mike Olt hammered a double off the wall in center field, but Hudson promptly got two groundouts to end the only other real threat.
"The timing was a little bit off at times, but I got away with some pitches they could have done some damage with," Hudson said. "In this game, if you can be just a little bit lucky, you can get the job done a lot of the time. I did make some pitches when I needed to, and it felt much better toward the end of the game."
The Giants gave Hudson a 2-0 cushion in the bottom of the first inning against Cubs starter Jake Arrieta (1-1). Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence opened with back-to-back singles, Pence a hit-and-run liner through the vacated second base hole that put runners at first and third. Buster Posey hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Pagan, and Pence, who stole second during Posey's at-bat, scored on Michael Morse's two-out single to center.
The Giants added two runs in the fifth on a second Posey sacrifice fly and Sandoval's single.
"Even (trainer) Dave Groeschner is amazed how well he's doing," said manager Bruce Bochy. "We have him in that 4-6 week period, but it should be on the shorter end of that the way he's moving around."
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Chicago Cubs (Edwin Jackson 3-4) at Giants (Tim Lincecum 4-3), 12:45 p.m. CSNBA