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Hudson puts baserunning savvy on display

Hudson puts baserunning savvy on display

MINNEAPOLIS -- Orlando Hudson wasn't around for the small-ball, running Twins of the Metrodome days. He signed on this winter in the midst of the move across downtown to Target Field.

He wasn't trying for a turn-back-the-clock game on Wednesday night in the Twins' first postseason contest at their new, natural-grass field, a 6-4 setback to the Yankees. He was trying to create some offense against his good friend, CC Sabathia. At least in the early innings, it produced a little.

Though Michael Cuddyer's two-run homer accounted for the bulk of the Twins offense against the Yankees' ace, an alert piece of baserunning from Hudson set up their third run. After leading off the third inning with a single, Hudson easily advanced to second on Joe Mauer's ensuing groundout to first. The fact that it was anything but easy for Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira allowed Hudson to take third once he saw Texeira dive to the bag to beat Mauer.

"Once I saw Teixeira dove into first base, I'm like, 'You know what? I'm going to take this right here,'" Hudson said. "If I get thrown out, we have 50,000 people screaming at my throat, but I made it in there, so it's all good."

It was a play Hudson anticipated, with the slow-footed Sabathia rumbling to try to get to the bag. Hudson slowed into second base, then took off once Teixeira made the diving play. He reached third easily, putting him in position to score a few pitches later on Jorge Posada's passed ball.

The whole process allowed the Twins generate a run off a leadoff single, not just without another base hit, but without another ball leaving the infield.

"We are not a big running team," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire forecast before the game. "But we have a few guys that can run, and we will definitely be looking to run and be looking at balls in the dirt and things like that. We'll be making sure guys at first base are aware of balls in the dirt. It's hard for Posada to bounce around and come up throwing. Hopefully, we'll try to take advantage that way."

Baserunning was more of an advantage for last year's Twins against the Yankees, but it backfired against them in Game 3. What Nick Punto thought was a game-tying single up the middle in the eighth inning instead was stopped by All-Star shortstop Derek Jeter, who fired home to retire Punto and keep the Yankees ahead.

Hudson's caution rounding second, trusting his eyes before making the attempt, was a little safer. But by no means did the Twins want to hold steady on the bases. They wanted to try to fluster Sabathia a bit, and it started with his buddy, Hudson.

Hudson's effort began even before the aggressive baserunning. After Denard Span's leadoff single in the first inning, Hudson laid down what initially looked like a sacrifice bunt, except that it wasn't. It was good enough to get Sabathia off the mound to field and fire to first.

"Tried to get under his skin a little bit, but it didn't work," Hudson said. "I was basically trying to get on. I was trying to get [runners at] first and second [with nobody out]. I was trying to bunt for a hit, not just to get him over."

Don't be surprised to see a little more of that on Thursday against veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte, even if the circumstances are different. Still, as Hudson said, they can't steal first base.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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