(Busch Stadium) All of the ballpark had plenty of time to realize what was going to happen as starter Miles Mikolas was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the 6th inning and a glance to the bullpen saw Dakota Hudson on the mound warming up.
Moments later, the St. Louis Cardinals rookie threw his final pitch in the bullpen and headed out to the field as fans rose to their feet in applause with Ted Nugent’s Stranglehold blasting in the background.
“That jog out was–I can’t, you can’t describe it,” smiled Hudson. “You can’t really put it into words. A standing ovation running in to the mound for the first time. Definitely got the adrenaline going. Then as I walked out, I saw DeJong and Carpenter walk by me at short and third and it was kind of a surreal moment. You see the guys on tv, you’ve played with them or grown up watching them and it was awesome to be a part of it.”
Up first for Hudson was Chicago’s Kyle Schwarber and it took a couple of pitches for the rookie to settle down to just playing baseball.
“I threw my first strike and I was like ‘okay, here we go’,” said Hudson. “Fell behind early, but a little bit of nerves and got in the zone and was okay from there.”
It was after that 2-0 count that Hudson took a visible pause on the mound.
“I just kind of stepped back and was talking to myself a little bit,” he said. “I just wanted to see kind of just how good I could be. You can’t do that unless you throw strikes. So I just wanted to see where I stood. I committed to throwing strikes and was like if he hits it, he hits it but if not then that’s good news.”
Things progressed to a full count after Schwarber had to return to the box after thinking strike two missed the plate. And then Hudson threw it past Cubs outfielder for the first strikeout of his big league career.
“I knew he was in the box, but I tried not to pay attention,” said Hudson. “I tried to just be throwing to Yadi–that in of itself is a surreal sense to be able to say. So yeah, I was just trying to focus in and play catch.”
Hudson then struck out Ian Happ on five pitches and pinch-hitter Victor Caratini grounded out to third to end the perfect inning.
“We had a discussion about maybe sending him back out,” shared Mike Shildt. “But we’re looking at his workload–he got a 1-inning stint as a start, so a little more bullets going into that start. Then he had a travel day, day off. We had him up yesterday, he got his guys in the inning today and felt good about it and went to the other guys to bring it home. We had conversations about what that looked like and it’ll be based on how he’s feeling, score, all those different things but a nice debut. It was pretty special stuff.”
photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports