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SF@SD: Hudson fans four over six innings vs. Padres

Tim Hudson and Barry Zito gained stardom together in the early 2000s as two-thirds of Oakland's three-headed pitching monster, along with Mark Mulder. Almost one decade after their time as A's teammates ended, Zito helped bring Hudson back to the Bay Area.

About a week after the Giants declined to pick up the 2014 option on Zito's contract last November, Hudson -- also a free agent at the time -- called his former teammate and good friend.

"It was a little awkward at first," Hudson recalled Wednesday, "but I asked what he thought of San Francisco.

"He was thrilled. He had nothing but great things to say about it, and he really made my decision to come here a lot easier. I trust what he says; he's a dear friend. That went a long way with me deciding to come here."

The merits of Zito's seven-year tenure with the Giants have been debated ad nauseum, but there's no questioning Hudson's tremendous first season as a Giant. As it stands, his 2.53 ERA would be the lowest of his career. He'll look to continue his success Thursday afternoon at AT&T Park against the team that drafted him and gave him his first chance in the Majors.

"The six years I was there, man, those were some of the best times of my life," said Hudson (7-5). "I can always look back on the fond memories."

Thursday will be just the second matchup with the A's in Hudson's career. He'd prefer to forget the first, a 2008 loss with the Braves in which he was tagged for five earned runs in five innings.

He will be opposed by lefty Scott Kazmir (10-3, 2.53 ERA), who's allowed fewer than two runs in 10 of his 18 starts this season and was named to his third All-Star team.

The A's will likely need another stellar performance, since Hudson's posted a 2.54 ERA in nine starts at AT&T Park this season and the Giants have won seven of those outings.

Hudson enjoyed returning to Oakland earlier this week for the first two games of the Bay Bridge Series and is excited to face his former team in his new park, but he said it won't be too special for him, since he was never teammates with the A's he'll face Thursday.

"The organization is a team that I do find a soft spot in my heart for since I spent so many years there," Hudson said, "and they gave me an opportunity to start my big league career there, but at the same time, they're another team that I'm trying to go out there and beat.

"They don't know me; I don't know them. They're going to try and hit it off my forehead and I'm going to try to make them swing and miss. It's going to be a fun day."

Giants: Morse regaining his stride?
Michael Morse couldn't have begun his first season with the Giants much better than he did. Through 60 games in a Giants uniform, he had hit for a .285 average with 13 homers and 41 RBIs.

As "May The Morse Be With You" T-shirts became common attire in the Giants' clubhouse, Morse appeared on his way to his first career All-Star Game appearance.

The shirts remained popular, but the production (and All-Star merits) disappeared. In his last 28 games, Morse has hit just one home run and driven in five runs. He's shown signs of heating up again lately, though, with at least one hit in each of his last six games, including a double Wednesday night.

A's: Lowrie's luck starting to turn
The hits are finally starting to fall for Jed Lowrie. After a remarkable run of tough luck, the switch-hitting A's shortstop has recorded a career-high five consecutive multi-hit games.

Lowrie, a career .259 hitter who had a .290 average last season, was stuck at .217 on July 4. More advanced metrics suggest he deserves better: Lowrie's 23.7 percent line-drive rate is his best since his rookie year.

"Literally everything is exactly the same, except the hits weren't falling," Lowrie said before Wednesday's game. "It still is a head-scratcher."

Lowrie said he feels no better or worse now than he has all season, despite raising his average 17 points to .234 over a span of five games. While the lack of results has been maddening at times, Lowrie has taken solace in sabermetrics.

"I'm looking at my average, and I'm looking at all the indicators," Lowrie said. "My line-drive rate was better than it was last year, my well-hit percentage is 19th in the league. It is nice to have that, but at the same time, because you're getting judged on average, you still want those balls to fall."

Worth noting
• The Giants have won 13 of their last 15 home games against the A's.

• The Giants are 37-11 when they score the game's first run and 13-30 when they don't.

• Kazmir is 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA in six afternoon starts this season.

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