It’s almost reflexive for players to say that no one game is more or less important than the next, but Giants right-hander Jake Peavy deviated from the line in talking about his start Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers.
“I looked at today as really a must-win,” Peavy said. “I put that on myself last night.”
The Giants were 4-1 on their six-game homestand entering Wednesday’s finale, but were coming off a loss Tuesday night and about to leave for a 10-game trip through some hot weather in Texas, Atlanta and Chicago. Peavy, taking the mound against Brewers right-hander Mike Fiers, said he “had the feeling just that it was too good a homestand to end it on a sour note.”
Instead, the Giants happily boarded a flight after Peavy threw six scoreless innings and the offense broke through in the seventh for a 5-0 win over the Brewers. It’s the Giants’ 13th win in 15 games, and moved them into a tie for first place with the Dodgers, at least until the Dodgers played the A’s later Wednesday night.
“I think today was a huge win for us,” Peavy said, “and I viewed it as that.”
Manager Bruce Bochy complimented Peavy for having “really good stuff,” but lauded his team overall for a “well-played game.” The Giants made several sharp defensive plays – two by Hunter Pence in right field, and a charging play by shortstop Brandon Crawford on a squirrely grounder that preserved a tied game in the sixth. They finally got to Fiers in the seventh, and batted around in a five-run inning that included key hits from Pence, Hector Sanchez and Ehire Adrianza – the latter two starting in place of regulars.
The Giants’ schedule gets tough in August, and they know it. Along with the upcoming 10-game trip, they travel to St. Louis and Pittsburgh to face two of the N.L.’s best teams and also play home series against the Cardinals and the Nationals. It behooved them to bank wins in July, and now they’re 14-9 this month with one game remaining.
“The road schedule and the teams that we’re playing (in August) are all really good,” Crawford said. “To have a good homestand and get some wins going into that road trip, it’s definitely good.”
They managed to end on a good note Wednesday despite Bochy resting several regulars, including Joe Panik – who has a stiff back but is expected to play Friday – Buster Posey and Angel Pagan. Panik’s replacement, Adrianza, had a two-run single to cap the five-run seventh, Sanchez doubled in the inning and Gregor Blanco, starting in center for Pagan, drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
After Peavy departed, the Giants got three scoreless innings from their bullpen and are 10-2 since the All-Star break.
“We’re playing good baseball,” Crawford said. “We were looking for this kind of baseball a couple weeks ago. We weren’t playing good defense; we weren’t pitching; we weren’t hitting. But now everything’s kind of clicking for us. We’re getting the hits when we need it, our pitchers have been great, our bullpen’s been great and our defense’s been playing well.”
Bochy said this week that it’s still much too early to be checking the standings, and while Peavy felt the importance of Wednesday’s start, he said that bigger sense of urgency does not kick in for a while.
“I think in September,” Peavy said. “The biggest thing we’ve got to watch out for is just making sure we’re worried about (today). We’re not the type of players, the type of team that can’t be invested on a daily basis and win. We can’t just show up and win.
“So I think the focus is now. August is a tough month, you look at what we’ve got to do. We know what’s ahead of us. But just be ready to go Friday night, as cliché as it sounds, in Texas and try to weather that heat.”
* Personally, Peavy said Wednesday’s start felt like his best “stamina-wise” since coming off the DL. He threw 91 pitches in six innings and had enough left on his 91st to put extra oomph on a cutter and get Ryan Braun swinging through strike three with two runners on in a scoreless game.
“I wanted to get him out there in a bad way, I’ll tell you that,” Peavy said.
Afterward, Peavy sounded encouraged by how he feels physically heading into the final two months. He said he has regained the weight he lost this spring – first to feel “lighter on his feet,” then because of an illness – and that not throwing much in the first half may actually be a benefit going forward, given his pitching deep into October each of the past two seasons (also with the Red Sox in 2013).
“I certainly think it could play a significant role down the stretch, just being fresh,” said Peavy. “As frustrating as that first half was, having to sit out, I look at it as a positive, giving my body a chance to rest and get some things in line.”
Peavy has completed at least six innings in all five starts since coming off the DL, and the Giants have won his last three. He also has a three-game hitting streak – after having no hits in his first 16 regular-season starts with the Giants. Peavy singled off Mike Fiers in the third inning Wednesday for the Giants’ first hit.
“I am starting to have a little bit better idea,” Peavy said, grinning. “I’m not the athlete I once was, but I can help every now and then.”
▪ Peavy had a solid quote about Pence, who made two key defensive plays in right field. Pence made a running, over the shoulder catch of Hernan Perez’s drive in Triples Alley in the third inning. Then, after Jonathan Lucroy singled leading off the fourth and stole second, Pence caught Ryan Braun’s fly ball in medium right and made a one-hop throw to third base to double up a tagging Lucroy.
“Hunter just has a special energy about him,” Peavy said. “He has a unique physical stature, but his insides are every bit as unique. This guy’s a special spirit and a rock in this clubhouse. And on teams that have won championships, he’s been a pillar in this clubhouse and on the field. We’re not the ballclub that we are without Hunter Pence.”
Pence was asked if he’s surprised teams still run on him – this was his fourth outfield assist this season in 35 games – and pointed to an errant throw he made in the Giants’ loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday.
“If you looked at my throw last night, I would’ve challenged myself,” Pence said. “Think I missed by like 30 feet or something ridiculous.”
Pence said the “really crazy part” about Wednesday’s play was third baseman Matt Duffy seeming to take the throw and tag Lucroy in one motion.
“With the wind, I really didn’t get behind the ball too great,” Pence said. “Just threw kind of a prayer up there and Duffy made an excellent tag.”
▪ Duffy and Pence also teamed up to give the Giants their first run. After Duffy led off the seventh inning with a single against Fiers, Pence hammered a double into left-center. Duffy didn’t hesitate rounding third and scored with an aggressive send by third-base coach Roberto Kelly.
Kelly had a few hiccups early this season, his first as the Giants’ third-base coach, but didn’t hesitate waving Duffy on Wednesday – then held Pence up with just as much conviction when Brandon Belt singled on the very next play. Pence ultimately did score on Brandon Crawford’s sacrifice fly.
“Duffy runs well, he runs better than what most people think,” Bochy said. “And great send on (Kelly’s) part. It’s about getting the knowledge of the runners, where the ball’s at. He hadn’t been at third base in quite a few years, but I think he’s been doing a good job and I thought that was a great send.”
▪ Bochy had talked before the game about Adrianza being in a difficult role as the Giants backup infielder, where he’s getting irregular playing time and unable to establish a real rhythm at the plate. So he found it encouraging when Adrianza shot a ground ball through the Brewers’ pulled-in infield for a two-run single in the seventh.
“I’m going to need this kid on the road trip, cause I’m going to have to give Crawford a break, Duffy a break,” Bochy said. “That should do a lot for his confidence. It was a nice piece of hitting.”
▪ Sanchez scored on Adrianza’s single – but came up in pain after appearing to land on the ball going into his slide. Sanchez said his left hamstring area came down on the ball, but he felt OK after a few seconds and stayed in the game.
Still, it seems like Sanchez, who has a history of concussions from foul tips and a reputation for being a magnet behind the plate, can’t avoid getting hit by a ball even when he’s not catching.
“During all my career, the ball finds me anyway,” Sanchez. “It’s part of the game.”
▪ The Giants are off Thursday before starting their three-game series at Texas. The Giants’ pitching probables:
Friday: LHP Madison Bumgarner (11-5, 3.16) vs. TBA
Saturday: RHP Tim Hudson (6-8, 4.80) vs. TBA
Sunday: RHP Chris Heston (11-5, 3.14) vs. TBA