Dakota Hudson missed seeing a fantastic feat in the St. Louis Cardinals’ game Monday night against Milwaukee — which was sort of unusual since Hudson was the man accomplishing it.
If the rookie right-hander is to be believed, he had no idea he had been pitching a no-hitter when manager Mike Schildt pulled him from the game with two outs in the seventh inning. One presumes that Hudson, who pitched for Sequatchie County High School before playing at Mississippi State, was aware his team was ahead 3-0 when he walked toward the dugout. But according to the accounts coming out of St. Louis, Hudson had no clue he had been pitching a no-hitter.
Hudson told reporters he knew something was up when he got big hugs from teammates in the dugout instead of the regular handshake when he left the game. And, according to Hudson, it wasn’t until he was in the clubhouse and heard television announcers’ comments that he fully understood he had just been yanked from a no-hit bid.
Does that mean Hudson is selfless or clueless?
Whatever the verdict, he was certainly spectacular, although he walked four batters. The common practice in baseball is for no one to talk to a pitcher during a no-hitter about the no-hitter because it might just jinx the no-hitter. Obviously, no one said no-hitter to Hudson on Monday. Nor was there much disagreement when Schildt pulled Hudson from the game after throwing 111 pitches.
But it must be noted that it still boggles the mind that a pitcher hurling a shutout — no-hitter or not — with the sorry state of relief pitching in baseball today, that a manager thinks nothing of yanking a starting pitcher in the midst of a shutout performance.
A curious thing has happened to pitching statistics in baseball. Shutouts and even complete games are now so rare they don’t even warrant a column in the main page of statistical measures for pitching. Those stats are banished to the second tier of columns, as though they are freakish incidents.
But since shutouts and complete games have become virtually extinct, Hudson’s statements that he didn’t know he had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning do seem plausible in today’s baseball.
What does count most, it seems, is the pitch count, and Hudson seemed fully to realize he had gone over the magic number of 100, which seems to be the measuring stick every manager uses to assess all pitchers these days.
Cy Young threw 749 complete games in his career. He obviously couldn’t function in today’s version of baseball. Managers have simply decided that every arm is the same, and every arm is capable of only 100 pitches every five days. It’s certainly interesting to ponder what Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson would say to a manager who came to pull him out of a shutout because he had thrown more than 100 pitches.
Nevertheless, Hudson’s latest outing is winning him a lot of notice in St. Louis, and he is on a roll, having thrown 12 2/3 scoreless innings in his last two starts. Those come after Hudson had hit a rough spot in the road in previous outings.
The win also lifted Hudson’s record to 12-6, making him the winningest pitcher on the current Cardinals’ staff, which is especially notable since right-hander Jack Flaherty has been the ace recently.
Normally, Hudson, 24, would be in the running for Rookie of the Year honors in the National League. That is unlikely, given New York Mets rookie Pete Alonso’s 40 home runs this season. But with the Cardinals ahead of the Cubs by an eyelash in the current National League Central standings, it’s normal for the people who follow the Cardinals to start imagining how Hudson and Flaherty would look in postseason play.
Hudson, who pitched for the Class AAA Memphis Redbirds in 2017 and 2018, is quickly building a reputation as a groundball pitcher in an era when every batter seems to want to lift the baseball. Hudson is getting 4.4 groundballs for every fly ball. He ranks just ahead of Mike Soroka of Atlanta at 4.02 and Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Los Angeles Dodgers at 3.29. Hudson’s 3.63 earned run average puts him squarely in a group of quality starting pitchers. His 104 strikeouts rank fourth on the staff in St. Louis, behind Flaherty’s 162, Adam Wainwright’s 124 and Miles Mikolas’ 106.
If he’s hurling no-hit shutout baseball deep into ballgames, Hudson is going to continue to get noticed for his ground-ball grind-it-out pitching prowess. More outings like Monday’s and all of baseball will be watching. But it remains a question as to whether Hudson himself would notice his own remarkable performance.