Mike Leake came to the Giants with a reputation of being one of the majors’ better-hitting pitchers. But he didn’t have a hit in his first five starts wearing the Giants’ uniform, and his season batting average of .115 entering Sunday did not sit well with the right-hander.
Leake addressed both matters with a three-run homer in the second inning Sunday, helping himself earn his first win as a Giant. Recovering from a rocky start, Leake pitched into the seventh inning as the Giants beat the San Diego Padres 10-3 at AT&T Park to stay 71/2 games behind the Dodgers in the National League West.
The Padres jumped on Leake for three runs and four extra-base hits in the first two innings, but the Giants got one run back on Ehire Adrianza’s two-out single in the second. That brought up Leake, who has the most hits by any major-league pitcher since his debut in 2010 but was just 7 for 61 this season as he dug in against Padres right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne.
Leake later said he had “worked a little bit to try to get the swing a little better.”
He wasted no time, turning on a first-pitch fastball from Despaigne and driving it into the left-field bleachers. It was his second homer of the season – the first coming with Cincinnati – and the sixth of his career, and it gave the Giants a 4-3 lead.
“I look at myself as part of the nine hitters,” Leake said. “I felt like I helped whoever was pitching – and that happened to be me. I look at myself as an offensive threat. It maybe hasn’t looked that way this year, but it’s also not fun hitting .120.”
Giants pitchers have hit eight homers this season – the most by any team in a season since the 2006 Cubs. Likely Silver Slugger winner Madison Bumgarner has accounted for five, while Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong each have hit one. It’s the first time four Giants pitchers have homered in one season since Vida Blue, Steve Carlton, Scott Garrelts and Mike LaCoss in 1986.
“I’d been getting a little too much (grief),” Leake joked. “I needed to do something.”
Coincidentally or not, Leake also pitched better after his home run, retiring 12 of the next 13 batters he faced and not allowing another hit before exiting in the seventh inning. He threw just 83 pitches, marking the third time in six starts for the Giants that Leake has completed at least six innings on 83 pitches or fewer. Josh Osich relieved Leake with a runner on first and needed just four pitches to get out of the seventh, inducing a flyout and double play.
“(Leake) pounds the strike zone,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “Just a great job of regrouping, and he pitched very efficiently, too, despite those first couple innings.”
The Giants outscored the Padres 27-4 in their three-game sweep, with six players driving in runs in Sunday’s finale. Leadoff hitter Angel Pagan scored three runs and stole a career-high three bases to cap an encouraging series in which he also hit his second home run of the season, robbed Justin Upton of a homer with a leaping catch at the center-field wall and moved much better than he did while dealing with knee problems earlier this season.
“He’s a different player when he’s healthy,” Bochy said. “It’s tough when you’re a guy that uses your legs, not just ranging in the outfield or stealing bases but at the plate, too. It’s obvious he feels good right now, and he’s playing great ball.”
The offense a was windfall for Leake, who received just six runs of support in his first five starts with the Giants, one reason he started Sunday still looking for his first win.
“He’s pitched well enough to have a few wins,” Bochy said. “We’ve had a hard time scoring runs for him. But he took that upon himself (Sunday). He says, ‘I’ll find a way here.’ And he did.”