SAN FRANCISCO -- Jake Peavy spent about five seasons pitching in the American League before coming to the Giants, so occasionally it still takes him by surprise when his turn comes around in the batting order.
On Wednesday night, Peavy realized he was due up second in the fourth inning as Ehire Adrianza was already walking to the plate. Adrianza made an out on the first pitch, while Peavy was still pulling on his batting helmet on the top step of the dugout. Peavy decided he didn’t have time to put on his batting gloves, so he went up to hit without them.
And slugged his first home run in nine years.
Peavy joined the parade of Giants pitchers to homer this season and also pitched into the seventh inning as the Giants beat the Reds, 5-3, on a rainy night at AT&T Park. The hard stuff didn’t start coming down until the eighth, but it seemed fitting that the earlier mists thickened a little in the fourth shortly after Peavy had finished his home-run trot.
"I think we need to work on his jog," manager Bruce Bochy joked. "He was sprinting around there pretty good."
There was a good reason for that -- and it wasn’t only lack of practice. Peavy’s eyesight is notoriously bad, so much so that catcher Buster Posey paints not only his nails but his entire fingers so that Peavy can see the signs on days he pitches. Peavy saw the fastball from Collin Balester well enough to put a charge into it -- but when did he realize the ball had actually cleared the wall?
"When I got past second and saw the umpire doing this," Peavy said, imitating the finger-twirling home run sign. "I certainly didn’t see it go out."
It was the third home run of Peavy’s career and his first since July 26, 2006, when he hit one against the Dodgers’ Brad Penny. The Giants now have had five pitchers hit homers this season, and are the first team to do that since the 2002 Dodgers. It had only happened 15 times overall since 1901 and twice in Giants franchise history -- in 1930 and 1935.
"How about that?" Bochy said. "I think I was more surprised by Peavy’s than anybody … His age, you’d think he doesn’t have that pop to get one out. But he found a way."
Peavy isn’t even the oldest pitcher to homer for the Giants this year. That would be Tim Hudson (40), followed by Ryan Vogelsong, Peavy, Mike Leake and Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner leads all major-league pitchers with five -- yet the Giants have had pitchers hit home runs in four of their last 13 games and none have come from the reigning Silver Slugger winner. The only Giants pitcher with at least 16 starts who hasn’t hit one: rookie Chris Heston.
"Really, Chris Heston hated to see that homer more than anybody," Peavy said, grinning. "He probably hits the most home runs of any pitcher in batting practice. And we give him a hard time that he doesn’t have one in a game."
Told of Bochy’s doubts about his power, Peavy chuckled and said: "I still feel strong." He had a similar message about how he feels on the mound. Peavy matched his season high Wednesday night with eight strikeouts, and he improved to 4-0 with a 3.52 ERA over his last five starts. Peavy pointed out that after sitting out most of the first half with injuries, he’s only at 92 2/3 innings for the year.
"I should be fresh," Peavy said. "Should be about halfway through a full season, so I do feel strong. We’ll hopefully finish this thing on a good note and see what happens."
Peavy struck out six batters through his first three innings Wednesday and didn’t get into trouble until the sixth, when he allowed back-to-back two-out doubles and walked Todd Frazier to bring the tying run to the plate in a 4-1 game. Bochy came out to the mound to talk with Peavy, but left the right-hander in the game.
"Just checking on him," Bochy said. "I know Jake well and I thought he had enough in the tank to get that last guy."
He did. Peavy got Ramon Cabrera to pop out, pumping his fist and pointing at catcher Buster Posey while the ball was still on an upward trajectory.
"We’re trying to win them all," Peavy said. "That was a big moment."
Bochy checked on Peavy again in the dugout between innings before sending him back out to start the seventh. That decision didn’t turn out so well, as Peavy allowed back-to-back doubles again to start the inning and the Reds pulled to within two runs.
"He convinced me he felt great," Bochy said. "Of course, two doubles later, I found out he lied to me."
The bullpen bailed Peavy out, though, with Cory Gearrin coming on to strike out Adam Duvall and retire Jason Bourgeois on a groundout, and Javier Lopez getting Jay Bruce to ground out to end the inning. The Reds put the tying run on base in each of the last two innings, but Giants relievers worked out of trouble to secure Peavy the win.
Asked afterward if he remembered his last home run, Peavy thought for a few seconds before recalling the one against Penny. "They’re not hard to count," he said. "There’s been three of them in 14 years. They stand out."
And as for the batting gloves? When he got back to the dugout after hitting the homer, Peavy said, "I got a lot of grief that maybe I’ve been doing something wrong." But he said he won’t make a point of going up bare-handed from now on, out of superstition.
"I’m not that naïve," he said.
* A decision for Peavy appeared in jeopardy in the eighth, when the Reds, down 5-2, loaded the bases with no outs against Michael Broadway. Bochy brought in Hunter Strickland, who on Tuesday night had had a rough outing in which he faced three batters, retired none and allowed two runs.
This time, Strickland needed five pitches to record three outs. He induced a double play, with one run scoring, and got Eugenio Suarez to fly out to preserve the lead.
"Strickland saved us," Bochy said. "We did talk a little bit today. Sometimes he wants to bull his way through these hitters. He’s more of a pitcher and today he hit his spots well."
Strickland said he’d talked before the game with pitching coach Dave Righetti a little bit about mechanics, but the chat with Bochy was all about encouragement. When Bochy put him right back into a high-pressure situation in a close game, it drove the message home.
"That’s huge," Strickland said. "It’s an honor to be in that situation, and for him to have that confidence, it just boosts my confidence that much more."
* Peavy had the biggest swing Wednesday, but the Giants also got a key contribution from Adrianza, who has looked much more comfortable swinging the bat lately. The shortstop doubled and tripled, driving in runs both times, and is 6-for-19 over his last six games, which brings his season average up to .180.
"The kid’s been playing well," Bochy said. "He’s got his confidence back. He went through a tough streak there, but he’s throwing out some good at-bats."
Bochy said the Giants do expect to have Brandon Crawford back in the lineup when they open a three-game series against the Diamondbacks on Friday. So it’s likely right back to the bench for Adrianza, though in a better frame of mind than he was a few weeks ago.
* Buster Posey recorded his 90th RBI of the season with a single in the first inning. He’s the first San Francisco-era Giant to drive in at least 90 runs in two seasons while playing primarily catcher. He has 16 games left to match his career-high of 103, set in 2012.
* Both the Dodgers and Cubs won Wednesday, so the Giants didn’t gain in either race. They’re off Thursday before welcoming in the Diamondbacks. The pitching matchups scheduled for that series:
Friday: LHP Madison Bumgarner (18-7, 2.91) vs. RHP Rubby De La Rosa (12-8, 4.75)
Saturday: RHP Mike Leake (10-8, 3.72) vs. LHP Patrick Corbin (5-4, 3.29)
Sunday: RHP Tim Hudson (7-8, 4.42) vs. RHP Jeremy Hellickson (9-8, 4.60)