The last time the Dodgers were at AT&T Park, they handed the Giants a three-game sweep in which the home team managed a total of four runs. It was, however, a Giants team that was reeling and a lineup in flux at the top.
For one thing, the Giants in that late-July series were still missing injured Angel Pagan, whose role as spark plug of the offense was on display again Thursday in the Giants’ 6-2 win over the Diamondbacks. Pagan doubled leading off the first inning and singled to start the third, scoring the Giants’ first two runs as they completed a sweep of Arizona to enter this weekend’s showdown just two games behind the Dodgers.
The Giants have won 12 of their past 15 games and nine in a row at home, and are 16 games over .500 for the first time since June 22. They held onto the possibility of leap-frogging Los Angeles in the division with a sweep this weekend – just as the Dodgers did to them July 25-27, the last time the Giants held a share of first place.
“We’re excited,” said Jake Peavy, who earned Thursday’s win against Arizona. “We had to take care of business today, and we certainly did that. Going into this weekend with some momentum ... we like the way we’re playing.”
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Though missing Michael Morse to an abdominal strain and still without concussed Brandon Belt, the Giants are more stable offensively than when they last played the Dodgers given Pagan’s return and Joe Panik’s emergence as a No. 2 hitter. Pagan has hit safely in 18 of his past 20 games, batting .341 with 18 runs, and Panik has hit .361 in his past 14 games, scoring as part of the Giants’ three-run sixth Thursday after reaching on a walk.
That, manager Bruce Bochy said, has been a factor in the Giants playing better at home recently – they’ve won 11 of 12 since an 8-23 stretch that Bochy said remains “hard to explain” but stemmed partly from a lack of offensive consistency.
“We need the guys at the top of the order to get on base, especially since this is a pitcher-friendly park,” Bochy said. “And that was missing.”
Another factor in the home success: The starting pitching, which has posted a combined 1.00 ERA in the Giants’ past 10 games at AT&T Park. Peavy helped that cause against Arizona by allowing only one run, on a Mark Trumbo double in the sixth inning, in 52/3 innings, striking out eight and improving to 5-1 with a 1.12 ERA in his past six starts.
Had Bochy been inclined to shuffle his rotation in anticipation of this weekend’s series, a la Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, he might have found it difficult to omit Peavy, who in addition to his 2.29 ERA in nine starts for San Francisco this season has a career 2.28 ERA and 14-3 record against Los Angeles.
Peavy also embraces big moments and admitted: “There was not any part of me that wanted to miss this series against the Dodgers.
“But you’ve got to win them all at this point,” Peavy said. “These ones head-up vs. the Dodgers, you don’t have to hope for them to lose. But it doesn’t matter if we don’t beat Arizona, San Diego and the other teams we have left.
“I’ll have my pompoms out all weekend,” he added. “That’s for sure.”
Peavy was on the receiving end of the cheers Thursday, as he held the Diamondbacks scoreless for the first five innings while the Giants built a 3-0 lead. The right-hander struck out five of the first seven hitters he faced and pitched out of a first-and-third, one-out jam in the third by getting No. 3 hitter Chris Owings to ground into a double play.
Peavy didn’t allow another hit until Cliff Pennington tripled with one out in the sixth. Two batters later, Trumbo doubled into the gap in right-center field, and with Peavy at 92 pitches, Bochy opted to bring in Jean Machi, who induced a grounder from A.J. Pollock for the third out.
“Since we’ve gotten (Peavy), it’s been fun to watch him,” Bochy said. “He’s been on (in) every start. A couple starts, our defense probably hurt him, but he’s really commanding the ball well, all his pitches.”
The Giants, who have outscored opponents 58-14 during their nine-game home winning streak, supported Peavy with another balanced attack, with five players driving in runs. Pence accounted for two, one on a first-inning single on which he actually threw his bat at an outside breaking ball and another on a bases-loaded walk in the sixth.
That balance could be a key this weekend, with the Giants again facing the Dodgers’ top three starters in Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw.
“It’s going to be exciting baseball,” Bochy said. “That’s what the game’s about, and what you’re hoping for in September, is playing important games.
“I’m looking forward to the series. You should embrace this, and I think our guys are.”