The Unforgettable October: Daniel Hudson’s rise to post-season legend

After being released by the Angels in Spring Training, Daniel Hudson is on the cusp of a World Series championship.

On Feb. 13, Daniel Hudson signed with the Los Angeles Angels. It was a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. 

If you missed this signing in the midst of the Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sweepstakes in February, you probably weren’t alone.  The 32-year-old Hudson was entering his 10th major league season after pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. The once-highly-ranked Chicago White Sox prospect never reached his full potential as a top-of-the-rotation starter but had built a productive career as a middle reliever in recent years. Hudson pitched well for the Dodgers, finishing the season with a 4.11 ERA in 40 games out of their bullpen in the regular season before finishing the season on the disabled list with right forearm tightness.   

Missing the World Series run for the Dodgers last year, Hudson was geared up and ready to help the Angels claw their way back into the postseason. Hudson struggled at times in Cactus League play and he was quickly caught up in a numbers game on their roster. The Angels had several younger players without options remaining on their contracts and the club decided to go into the regular season with these other pitchers rather than the veteran Hudson. He was released by the Angels less than a week before Opening Day.

Hudson was snatched up quickly by the Toronto Blue Jays three days later and immediately became a reliable middle reliever for the Jays.  Things really began to heat up for Hudson in June when he limited opposing hitters to a .171 average, striking out 15 in 11 innings. He continued to springboard that success throughout the summer which lead to the surging Washington Nationals’ acquisition of Hudson in the final hours leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.  

Hudson provided the hot Washington Nationals just what they asked for down the stretch, putting up a 1.44 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 24 games through August and September. Hudson finished the season allowing no earned runs during the month of September in Washington. The month ended with the Nationals earning a National League Wild Card berth against the Brewers.   

As the Nationals entered their Wild Card game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Hudson would potentially have his first opportunity in the post-season since his rookie season with the Diamondbacks, a second chance after a single rough start with the D-backs during the 2011 NLDS — a game in which a young Daniel Hudson gave up five runs in five innings against these same Milwaukee Brewers. A chance for redemption was sitting before him.

Hudson had to be wondering if he would get his second career post-season appearance as the Nationals trailed 3-1 heading in the bottom of the eighth inning. He was asked to begin warming up in the bullpen and watched the Nationals score three runs in that half inning to give them a 4-3 lead. Hudson was now suddenly asked to close out the game that Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg had combined to pitch to this point.  Hudson struck out Eric Thames to start the ninth but Lorenzo Cain lined a single to center field.  Hudson did not waver, as he forced Orlando Arcia to pop up to the catcher before getting Ben Gamel to fly out to center field and lead the Nationals to a NLDS match-up against his former Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Hudson’s outstanding performance continued to guide the Nationals past the Dodgers as he did not allow a run in three games and earned the victory in the fifth and decisive game of the series. Meanwhile, back in Scottsdale, Az., Sara Hudson was about to give birth to the Hudson’s second daughter. Hudson made the not-so-difficult decision to utilize his right to take paternity leave for the first game of the NLCS to be with his wife and daughter for the birth of their second child.

The Nationals won game one of their NLCS against the Cardinals while Hudson was watching with his family and newborn daughter in Arizona. 24 hours later, Hudson was back on the mound in St. Louis saving game two of the NLCS.  Three days later, the Nationals completed their sweep of the Cardinals, leading Washington to their franchise’s first World Series appearance.

The Nationals go into the weekend at home with a 2-1 series lead over the Houston Astros and Daniel Hudson finds himself two wins away from a World Series championship. Now, his 2011 ALDS performance is forgotten and remembered is an outstanding 1.29 ERA in seven 2019 post-season outings.   

Will Hudson be on the mound if and when the Nationals win their first World Series? 

We will have to wait to see if Hudson will go from being a Spring Training cut to a World Series champion. 

One thing is for certain: Daniel Hudson has had one unforgettable October.  

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