OAKLAND -- The outcome was far from ideal for either pitcher Saturday afternoon. But the final hurrah for the A's Barry Zito and the Giants' Tim Hudson at the Coliseum, the birth site of Oakland's Big Three, delivered a stream of stirring emotions that override any box score.
It was a celebration that transcended all else -- the strike zone Hudson lost in the second inning, the six hits Zito yielded, the merry-go-round of relievers that struggled to produce shutdown innings in a messy sort of game that wasn't about the game at all. Ultimately, the slugfest that ended as a 14-10 Giants victory proved to be beautiful chaos, full of festive nostalgia for Bay Area baseball fans.
"The outcome doesn't matter. Today was an outstanding day," A's catcher Stephen Vogt said. "It was everything that Oakland A's fans deserved, everything that San Francisco Giants fans deserved. They got to see two of the great pitchers of the last 15 years pitch on the stage where they started their careers."
The duel didn't even reach the one-hour mark. Hudson walked three batters and hit two more in the second inning, departing with one out after throwing two balls to Josh Reddick. Only 12 of his 34 pitches registered as strikes, and he was charged with three runs, two earned, in what's expected to be the second-to-last start of his 17-year career.
Zito may have outlasted his Big Three counterpart, but barely. Strapped to a 50-pitch limit, the lefty's 48th pitch was thrown for a ball to Buster Posey, a third-inning leadoff walk that prompted A's manager Bob Melvin to emerge from the dugout.
Zito, who spent the entire year with Triple-A Nashville ahead of his unexpected callup last week, was on the hook for four runs in his first big league start since Sept. 25, 2013, with the Giants.
"Ultimately it would have been great if he got Posey out and then that would have been it," said Melvin, who even wore his socks high for the trip to the mound, in a nod to Zito. "I wanted him to come out in the middle of an inning where he could get an ovation like he did. I think he deserved that."
The sold-out crowd erupted. On the heels of "Huddy! Huddy!" chants heard just minutes before came "Barry! Barry!"
Zito offered a tip of his cap and, at inning's end, returned for a curtain call, as Hudson had done when he stepped into the spotlight, pointed toward Zito on the mound and offered a wave to the fans.
"I've never nodded at a pitcher before the game started, but I felt like with Huddy, I wanted to show him a little bit of respect and I nodded at him before my first at-bat," Vogt said. "Both of those guys deserve better than what happened to them today, but I don't think that will taint anything for either of them."
Said Hudson: "There comes a time in this game where the moment is sort of bigger than the games and performances. The fans are awesome here. They've always supported me since early on in my career and there were a lot of Giants fans here that were appreciating both sides of the field. Classy moment for the fans here, and it's something we'll appreciate forever."
Zito, who hopes to pitch again this season out of the bullpen, called it "surreal."
"I had flashbacks of the last time I pitched in San Francisco," he said. "I was like, 'Wow, man.' I couldn't believe I got to be on the field in an A's uniform and receive an ovation. When I had last pitched in the Major Leagues I had thought there may never be another time on the field, let alone for the Oakland A's.
"That was just so special to be out there and have those fans give me some love and just to be on that mound. I've always loved this ballpark, and being out here and starting for the home team was awesome."
Each of his teammates donned high socks in tribute, as orchestrated by pitcher Jesse Chavez. On the other side, every Giant wore No. 17 Hudson shirts before the game.
The remaining member of the Big Three, Mark Mulder, who is now an ESPN analyst, stood in the A's dugout commending both on their lengthy careers. Come Sunday, all three will be on the field throwing out the ceremonial first pitches -- more than a decade since their five-year run together, which included four postseason appearances, concluded.
"Time flies for sure," Hudson said. "You know, you get wrapped up in this game. You get wrapped up in the cities and the offseason and Spring Training, and a lot of times you can lose track of time along the way. You've got to take in everything and try to make every day special because you never know when it's going to be your last day playing."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.