San Francisco Giants

Peavy helps send Giants into showdown with Dodgers on high note

SAN FRANCISCO -- Jake Peavy admitted he had glanced ahead at the way the Giants’ rotation was lining up for this weekend’s showdown with the Los Angeles Dodgers and noted he would miss pitching in the series -- by a day.

Peavy has dominated the Dodgers in his career -- a 14-3 record and 2.28 ERA -- and been one of the Giants most consistent starters since arriving via trade in July -- a 2.29 ERA, including a 1.12 mark in his last six starts. He’s also one of those athletes who live for the big moment. Had Giants manager Bruce Bochy opted to tweak his rotation in anticipation of this weekend’s series, a la L.A. manager Don Mattingly, he probably would have been hard-pressed to omit Peavy.

"There was not any part of me that wanted to miss this series against the Dodgers," Peavy said Thursday. "But at this point in time, we’ve got to win ’em all."

So Peavy took the ball on turn Thursday against the Arizona Diamondbacks and threw 5 2/3 one-run innings to help lift the Giants to a 6-2 win and a series sweep at AT&T Park, where they’ve now won nine games in a row. Overall, the Giants have won 12 of 15, are 16 games above .500 for the first time since June 22, and enter this weekend’s series two games behind the Dodgers, in position to potentially retake first place with a sweep.

Bochy said before the game he hadn’t given consideration to altering his rotation, largely because at this point games against teams occupying the bottom spots in the West count just as much as those against the division leaders. It’s fine to say that, but the Giants also played like it against the Diamondbacks, outscoring them 16-3 in three decisive wins.

"I think when you’re in our situation, you can have a tendency to look (ahead) at another club," Bochy said. "But you can’t do that in this game. Guys did a great job of keeping their concentration on the task at hand, and that was Arizona."

It didn’t seem to be a problem for Peavy, who struck out five of the first seven hitters he faced and held the Diamondbacks scoreless until the sixth, when Cliff Pennington hit a one-out triple and Mark Trumbo doubled with two outs to score Pennington and end the afternoon for Peavy. With the right-hander at 92 pitches, Bochy opted to bring in reliever Jean Machi, who got A.J. Pollock to ground out and preserve what was then a 3-1 lead.

"My stuff was OK, for the most part commanded the baseball and threw it to both sides of the plate," Peavy said. "Hate that I couldn’t pitch a little bit deeper into today’s game, but it was good to get the guys in the bullpen out there and show what they’re made of."

That competitiveness has helped Peavy fit in quickly with the Giants and is part of what Bochy loves about the right-hander, whom he previously managed in San Diego. Bochy again raved Thursday about Peavy’s "fire and intensity."

"The pitches probably caught up with him a bit there in the sixth, I think," Bochy said. "He worked hard, and those early strikeouts, his count was up pretty good. But he’s a guy that plays the game the way it should be played, and that’s all-out. He doesn’t leave anything on the field."

Catcher Buster Posey said that Peavy’s vocal and demonstrative manner is actually a good complement in the Giants’ clubhouse, where many of their leaders -- like Posey himself -- are quieter types. As for Peavy’s performance on the field, Posey said, "He’s been really, really consistent. Just mixing well, moving the ball up and down, throwing his off-speed when he wants to."

Peavy, whose passion shows during his starts but who is also vocal in the dugout on days he doesn’t pitch, said he considers it part of his job to find other ways to contribute aside from pitching.

"As a starter, when you only influence the game every five days, it’s the least I can do to come here and get my work in, and when the game starts try to find ways -- maybe the (opposing) pitcher might be tipping, maybe I can get signs from the other dugout, or just encourage our guys," he said.

"When you’re in the game, it’s hard to really be vocal and see things maybe in a different light than when you’re kind of watching the game as a whole. I enjoy that, trying to pick my teammates up and lift their spirits."

You know, then, how Peavy will be occupying himself with the Dodgers in town.

"You’ll hear me yelling this weekend," he said. "I’ll have my pom-poms out all weekend, that’s for sure."

* As you might expect, much of the post-game talk was already focused on the Dodgers’ impending arrival, and tomorrow’s print story covers all of that. The last time the teams played, the Dodgers swept a three-game series July 25-27 at AT&T Park to go from two games behind to one game up in the West -- the last time the Giants tasted first place. It makes for a neat parallel this weekend, with the Dodgers coming in two games up and the Giants streaking.

"We’re feeling good right now," Posey said. "I don’t know if I can compare it (to the last series). But we’re definitely feeling good right now."

"We had to take care of business today, and we certainly did that," Peavy said. "Going into this weekend with some momentum -- we like the way we’re playing.

"I’m sure everybody’s going to be excited tomorrow night. We need all of us."

* As in the last series, the Giants are again scheduled to see Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw this weekend, in that order. So it would benefit them to carry some of the offensive balance they showed in their sweep of Arizona into the weekend.

Five different players drove in runs Thursday. Hunter Pence accounted for two, one on a bases-loaded walk in the sixth and one on a two-out single in the first on which he really threw his bat at an outside breaking ball and hit a grounder up the middle that kicked off second base and away from Chris Owings into center field.

"Nice job on his part hitting the bag," Bochy joked. "We went to the ground attack there in that inning and it worked out."

More seriously, Bochy also pointed to timely hits from Posey (a two-out RBI single in the sixth) and Juan Perez (an RBI double in the sixth). Perez’s in particular, Bochy said, was a "huge hit," coming in what was then a two-run game. Perez came on to pinch hit for the pitcher’s spot with a man on second and one out and, in his first at-bat since last Friday, lined a double down the left-field line.

"We had some timely hits," Bochy said. "That’s what it takes to win ballgames, and we had them today."

* One thing the Giants didn’t have last time they played the Dodgers: Angel Pagan in the leadoff spot. Pagan had two more hits Thursday, scored the Giants’ first two runs, and is now batting .341 with 18 runs over his last 20 games. He went 7-for-12 with five runs in the sweep, again showing why he’s so valuable atop the Giants’ lineup.

"He’s a catalyst," Bochy said. "For your offense to get going, those guys at the top of the order, they kind of set the tone, and he’s one of the best. So we’ve been a different club with him in the lineup."

Bochy did say that Pagan’s back tightened up on him in the late innings, which was why Bochy replaced him in center field with Gary Brown. Bochy made it sound like that was more of a precautionary move than anything, so Pagan should be in the lineup Friday.

* Bochy said it’s "doubtful" the Giants will have Michael Morse available this weekend, as Morse continues to nurse an oblique strain and is "swinging at about 50 percent now."

They won’t have Brandon Belt either, of course, but Bochy did have encouraging news after the game on Belt’s appointment Thursday with concussion specialist Dr. Michael Collins in Pittsburgh. Bochy said Belt was cleared to ramp up baseball activities, which means Belt can start taking live batting practice Friday and work toward a return.

"Great news," Bochy said.

Asked whether Belt could still contribute before the end of the regular season and in the playoffs, if the Giants make it, Bochy said yes but that he can’t pinpoint a target date yet.

"It’s hard to say a rough timetable, I’d say a week to 10 days," Bochy said. "He’s pretty hard behind, he’s missed some time. But we’ve got to find a way to get him to see some live pitching.

"I could see him helping us before this is over. We have how many games; I think there’s time to get him ready, and he could help out whether it’s off the bench or starting."

Regardless, it’s a big step for Belt, who should be back with the team Friday.

* After Peavy’s exit in the sixth, five different relievers combined to record the final 10 outs. They included a brief appearance by Hunter Strickland, who again impressed with his readings on the radar gun, hovering in the high 90s and hitting 99 mph with a fastball to freeze Trumbo for the last out of the eighth.

With the Giants comfortably ahead late, some might have seen it as a prime opportunity for Brett Bochy’s major-league debut. Bruce Bochy grinned when asked if he’d thought about the chance to summon his son for the first time.

"I have some guys that needed work," Bochy said. "I’ll get him in at some point."

Is the younger Bochy getting antsy?

"No, he gets it," the manager said. "He’s been around the game a long time. He gets it."

* The Giants’ starting pitchers in their last 10 games at AT&T Park: a 1.00 ERA with 77 strikeouts and 12 walks in 72 innings. That’ll win you some games. So can they maintain that pace against the Dodgers? The pitching probables this weekend:

Friday: LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-6, 3.16) vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner (17-9, 3.02)

Saturday: RHP Zack Greinke (14-8, 2.73) vs. RHP Tim Hudson (9-10, 3.12)

Sunday: LHP Clayton Kershaw (18-3, 1.67) vs. RHP Yusmeiro Petit (5-3, 3.62)

"It’s going to be exciting baseball," Bochy said. "That’s what the game’s about and what you’re hoping for in September, is playing important games.

"I’m looking forward to this series. You should embrace this, and I think our guys are."