Former Washington Nationals' skipper Davey Johnson tipped his cap, or his hat sometimes, repeatedly over his two-plus years on the bench in the nation's capital. After Tim Hudson, for example, with Atlanta last year, outdueled Stephen Strasburg in Nationals Park in April, Johnson talked about the job the veteran right-hander did to hold the Nats' offense down.
"[Strasburg] pitched well enough," he told reporters, "you just have to tip your hat to Hudson, he pitched a heck of a ballgame."
"He's really got good command of both sides," Johnson explained.
"Great offspeed stuff, located very well. Pitched a heck of a ballgame, low pitch count, just kept us off balance."
Hudson improved to (14-5) career against the Nationals as a franchise with the win that day and (15-5) when he beat Washington again in his second start of the 2013 campaign against the Braves' divisional rivals.
On the year, Hudson was (2-0) against the Nationals last season with a 0.84 ERA, three walks (1.27 BB/9) and 13 Ks (5.48 K/9) in 21 1/3 IP over which he held Nats' hitters to a .137/.171/.219 line.
Throw in one start he made against Expos in 2003 when he was with Oakland, and Hudson, now part of the Giants' rotation, entered this Thursday afternoon's start in A&T Park in San Francisco with a (16-5) record, a 2.89 ERA, 45 walks (2.05 BB/9) and 137 Ks (6.23 K/9) in 198 IP opposite the Nationals/Expos, holding them to a combined .233/.281/.337 line in his 16-year major league career.
So it probably shouldn't have been a surprise when Hudson shut the Nationals down in the finale of the four-game set after the Giants dropped the first three at home.
The 38-year-old right-hander who signed a 2-year/$23M deal with San Francisco, limited Washington to just one unearned run in seven innings on the mound in the Giants' 7-2 sweep-averting win.
"The ball is just down," new Nats' skipper Matt Williams said after his team failed to produce much of anything offensively against Hudson.
"He just induces grounders," Williams said, "and it seems like he never gets a ball up, so that was pretty typical today, a lot of ground balls."
After taking three of four from the Giants, the Nationals flew to St. Louis for the start of a three-game set with the Cardinals, against whom they were just 2-15 in Busch Stadium going back to 2008.
Three of those 15 losses came during Davey Johnson's final week on the Nationals' bench last September.
The Cardinals swept that three-game series with the Nats and all six games between the teams in 2013.
"I'll tell ya," Johnson told reporters after the third straight loss, "they just kicked our butt. Just about every aspect of the game, they beat up on us. And I tip my hat to them, [Mike] Matheny has done a good job over there. I wish him luck. They kind of had their way with us."
The finale of that series saw Nationals' right-hander Jordan Zimmermann give up six hits and four runs in seven innings of work in what ended up a 4-1 loss.
" I thought [Zimmermann] pitched a pretty good ballgame," Johnson said. "Kept us in there, but we had three runs, no runs, one run [in the three losses]. Kind of tough."
Last night, in the series opener with Cardinals in Busch Stadium, Zimmermann was downright dominant, throwing a complete game (eight innings) on an astonishingly efficient 76 pitches and allowing just one earned run on a home run by Matt Adams in the second inning of what ended up a 1-0 loss.
Unfortunately for Zimmermann and the Nationals, they "ran into a buzzsaw" named Lance Lynn, who took a perfect game into the sixth and limited the visiting Nats to two hits total in eight innings of work in which he walked no one and struck out eight.
"Our offense is great and for them to hold us down like that," Zimmermann said afterwards, "Lynn pitched a great game, you've got to tip your hat to him."
"Just pinpoint control with his fastball," new Nats' skipper Matt Williams said of Lynn's effort. "Threw a lot of them that came back to the plate, started off the plate, came back to the outside corner. He threw really well. We hit some balls hard, but the difference tonight was one swing and they got us."
"It's always disappointing," Williams said of failing to support a start like the one Zimmermann put together, "but they were one pitch better than we were tonight, so we'll come get them tomorrow."
"It's tough, but tomorrow is another day," Zimmermann said. "We're going to move past this and be ready to go tomorrow and we'll get them tomorrow."
• We talked about Lance Lynn, Jordan Zimmermann and the Nats' struggles against St. Louis on Nats Nightly after last night's game: