While the Giants were leaving open the possibility Wednesday of still making a splash – perhaps even a large one – before the non-waiver trade deadline, their current 25-man complement remained one of the hottest teams in baseball thanks in part to their two biggest deadline acquisitions of the past three years.
Jake Peavy pitched six scoreless innings and Hunter Pence had two key defensive plays and the tiebreaking hit in the Giants’ 5-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. The Giants finished their six-game homestand with a 5-1 record, and have won 13 of their past 15 games, with Wednesday’s win moving them into a temporary tie for first place in the National League West with the Dodgers, who had a night game against the A’s.
Amid speculation that the Giants could try to add another front-line starter such as the Phillies’ Cole Hamels or the Tigers’ David Price, the veteran Peavy had arguably his best outing since coming off the disabled list at the beginning of July, scattering four hits over his first scoreless outing of the season.
Since returning from the DL, Peavy has a 2.84 ERA and has completed at least six innings in all five starts with the Giants winning his past three. Wednesday’s game was scoreless in the sixth when the Brewers singled twice with two outs to bring up Ryan Braun. Peavy got ahead of Braun and, on his 91st pitch, threw a hard cutter for a swinging third strike.
“I think today was my best day as far as stamina goes,” Peavy said. “I felt like I was at the same place in the sixth as I was in the first. … It’s nice to be able to reach back and have a swing-and-miss pitch there when you really need it against an elite player in the league.”
Peavy said he and Braun have “had our share of battles” through the years, but Peavy has won most of them. The sixth-inning strikeout made Braun 2 for 17 lifetime against the Giants’ right-hander.
“I wanted to get him out there in a bad way,” Peavy said, grinning. “I’ll tell you that.”
Peavy departed with the game still scoreless thanks in part to Pence, who sprinted far into Triples Alley in right-center field to rob Hernan Perez with an over-the-shoulder catch in the third inning – likely saving a run with a man on first – and made another critical play in the fourth.
After Jonathan Lucroy led off with a single and stole second, Braun lifted a fly ball to medium right field. Pence caught it near the foul line and heaved a one-hop throw to third base, where Matt Duffy made the catch and tag on Lucroy in one movement for a double play.
“You know, we expect Hunter to make those plays, and he expects them of himself,” Peavy said. “Hunter just has a special energy about him. The guy’s a special spirit and rock in this clubhouse. … We’re not the ballclub that we are without Hunter Pence.”
The Giants’ record is proof. With Pence in the starting lineup, the team is 26-8 this season. Without him, San Francisco is 30-37.
Pence ignited a five-run seventh inning when he roped a double into left-center to score Duffy from first base to give the Giants a 1-0 lead. The inning also included a double by Hector Sanchez and two-run single by Ehire Adrianza, who started in place of Buster Posey and Joe Panik, respectively.
Peavy said he’d decided Tuesday night that Wednesday was a “must-win,” with the Giants heading out for a 10-game trip to Texas, Atlanta and Chicago. The question is whether the roster will look the same when they get back.
General manager Bobby Evans, addressing reporters after the game, said the Giants are “trying to stay engaged in many options” as the trade deadline approaches, and did not rule out the possibility of pursuing a big-name target. The Giants don’t intend to trade a member of their everyday lineup, Evans said, but the rest of the roster is not untouchable.
“From a depth standpoint, some of our depth guys we have to be open-minded about,” Evans said.
A front-line starter might also require the Giants to part with top prospects – something the Giants are careful about, especially after seeing players like Duffy and Panik come through the system and emerge as everyday players in the past year. Evans said while the Giants are exploring options, “There’s a limit to how much you can give up, and it has to make sense.”
Ultimately, the Giants could decide to stand pat, and Evans pointed out the team that took two of three from the Brewers was finally at full strength after dealing with injuries to several key players throughout the season.
“To be in the position they’re in in the division, having been without the full complement of the roster all year, I think is significant,” Evans said. “It says a lot about these guys to be in this position with the last two months ahead. And it certainly gives you a lot of confidence.”