While Jake Peavy had two starts and Matt Cain none through the Giants’ first 79 games of the season, the oft-repeated term was that the team was “slow-playing” the two veteran right-handers back from injury in order to have them healthy and contributing in the second half.
With no clear-cut No. 2 starter behind Madison Bumgarner before the season, the Giants had hoped Cain could return from elbow problems to fill that role and re-signed Peavy to a two-year deal hoping Peavy could reprise his second-half performance of 2014. It took nearly until the All-Star break, but this week’s series against the New York Mets finally offered a glimpse of what the Giants envisioned.
After Cain threw six scoreless innings in the Giants’ win Tuesday night, Peavy held the Mets to two runs over seven innings Wednesday afternoon in his second start since returning from back problems. Peavy took his fourth loss in as many starts this season, however, as the Giants were unable to mount any offense in a 4-1 loss to the Mets and their All-Star pitcher Jacob deGrom.
San Francisco lost for the11th time in 16 games. Since May 30, the Giants have gone 13-23, posting the second-worst record in the majors. Still, there was some optimism after Wednesday’s game about the starting rotation seemingly rounding into form. Tim Hudson (shoulder strain) and Tim Lincecum (forearm contusion) are both on the disabled list and struggled before they landed there – making the return of Cain and Peavy a timely development.
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In his past two starts, against the Washington Nationals and the Mets, Peavy allowed four runs (three earned) and nine hits in 131/3 innings, pitching reasonably deep into each outing. He completed seven innings on 93 pitches Wednesday, a day after Cain threw 95 pitches against the Mets and consistently hit 92 to 93 mph.
13-23 Giants record since May 30, second-worst in the majors
Bumgarner is an All-Star, rookie Chris Heston has emerged as a reliable starter and Ryan Vogelsong has a 2.67 ERA in his past 12 outings. Being able to slot Cain and Peavy, two proven starters, to fill out the rotation should ostensibly help a Giants team that has had trouble scoring runs this month.
“I’d say with those two, you know, very pleased with where they’re at,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after Wednesday’s loss. “They’re going to help us in this second half, there’s no question, they’re going to make us a stronger rotation. So I’m encouraged by that, I really am, where they’re at.”
Peavy labored through two bad starts in April before the Giants put him on the DL because of back and hip issues. On Wednesday, he carried a shutout into the sixth inning before the Mets broke a scoreless tie with an unearned run and added another with three singles off Peavy in the seventh. The right-hander said it was “frustrating” not pitching well enough to win, but that he felt “more comfortable” than during his first start back in Washington and did a better job executing pitches.
Physically, Peavy said he feels strong and ready to carry a load for the Giants in the second half. While his back limited the types of workouts he could do early in the season, Peavy said he has returned to a more normal routine over the past few weeks, put on 10 pounds and has “really seen an increase in strength.”
“I think that we can sit around and cry about the first few months, and it’s not been easy for me or Matt,” Peavy said. “You saw the way I was out there to start the season, and it wasn’t that guy. But we hope that we can be a big shot in the arm.
They’re going to help us in this second half, there’s no question, they’re going to make us a stronger rotation.
Bruce Bochy, Giants manager, regarding the return of Matt Cain and Jake Peavy to the starting rotation
“Me and ‘Cainer’ obviously have been help numerous times in our career for ballclubs, a big help. And we expect to do that, and like I said, be fresh for that stretch run and really be counted on as we were last year.”
Regardless of how Peavy pitches, he will still need some support, which the Giants were unable to give him Wednesday against deGrom. The hard-throwing Mets right-hander allowed just two hits in eight innings while striking out 10 batters and lowering his ERA to 2.14.
The Giants scored four runs in the three-game series against the Mets and have scored three or fewer in six consecutive games. Bochy said he sees the Giants as “too good an offense” to continue struggling, and that returning to full strength – Buster Posey missed the past two games because of hamstring tightness, Hunter Pence just came back Tuesday from wrist tendinitis and Nori Aoki is out because of a fractured fibula – should help.
“Cain had a huge outing (Tuesday) night, Peavy has pitched well in both his outings since he’s come back,” shortstop Brandon Crawford said. “It’s definitely encouraging; we just need to put up some runs for them, and I think we can turn it around a little bit.”