When Jake Peavy takes the mound Friday for the Giants in the opening game of their National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals, the right-hander said he “will do everything I can” not to utter a single profanity.
But, Peavy added Thursday, “I can’t promise I won’t.”
As unfailingly polite and thoughtful as the Alabama native is between days he starts, something takes over when Peavy toes the pitching rubber. It’s a competitive nature that wells up inside and manifests itself in ways readily apparent to anyone within view – or earshot.
He grunts. He throws his arms out after close pitches. He barks out angrily – at himself, mostly.
“It’s usually something like, ‘Aw, God bless it, Peav!’ ” shortstop Brandon Crawford said, grinning. “Something like that.”
It’s a demeanor Peavy understands might rub some people – umpires, mindful parents, even members of his own team – the wrong way. Peavy said people have tried to get him to tone it down, and he’s mindful of cuss words because, “I have children at home – I understand the role model aspect of things.”
But, he said, “It is who I am. I can’t apologize for the passion and emotion that I will show (today). It is going to be honest, I promise you that.”
That passion is part of what endeared Peavy, a trade deadline acquisition by the Giants, so quickly to his new teammates. His performance hasn’t hurt, either.
Peavy went 6-1 with a 1.35 ERA in his final nine regular-season starts. That made him the logical choice, after Madison Bumgarner got the Giants past the wild-card game, for the opener against the N.L.-best Nationals and their ace, Stephen Strasburg – even though Peavy was wearing a different uniform, toiling for a last-place team, Boston, just three months ago.
Peavy was 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA when the trade was made. But the Giants needed a rotation solution to replace injured Matt Cain, and their scouting department and manager Bruce Bochy’s history with Peavy in San Diego convinced them to take a chance on the 33-year-old. It has paid off for both – the Giants getting stability in their rotation and a strong clubhouse presence, and Peavy getting another crack at the postseason after winning his first World Series title last year with the Red Sox.
“He’s a throwback, from back in the day,” fellow starter and veteran Tim Hudson said. “He still has really good stuff, even at this point in career. He can dominate teams with the stuff that he has. But also, he has that intangible – that emotional intangible.
“I think the one thing that’s going to give him a great chance to win is that emotional edge he has on the mound.”
Crawford said part of Peavy’s game was nothing new to him when the pitcher arrived in July. Crawford recalled an at-bat he’d had against Peavy once in spring training.
“He threw a ball (to) me and he started yelling, and I looked back at him like, ‘Man, is he yelling at me? What’s going on?’ ” Crawford said. “But I think he was just yelling at himself because he made a bad pitch.”
Crawford said Peavy’s grumblings usually are loud enough to hear from shortstop, but they aren’t always comprehensible.
“Honestly, it just sounds like fragments,” second baseman Joe Panik said. “I just hear, ‘Arr.’ But he’s just very fiery and passionate, and I love it.”
Peavy’s outbursts aren’t always directed at himself. At least once, Peavy reacted to a defensive play not being made – something that might ordinarily be seen as a pitcher showing up his fielder, if not for Peavy’s established reputation for wearing his emotions on his jersey cuff.
“I think he’s just kind of proved over the years that that’s how he’s going to be no matter what,” Crawford said. “He’s not necessarily showing us up. He’s just that intense and into the game that he wants to get that out so bad, he tends to show his emotion a little more than most guys.”
So if Peavy throws a ball on the first pitch to Nationals leadoff hitter Denard Span, don’t be surprised if he reacts like he’s just walked the bases loaded. It’s part of his mechanism for making sure that doesn’t happen, he said.
“Really, a lot has to do with frustration when I falter mechanically,” Peavy said. “I get out there, I expect to be perfect. I strive for perfection. Sometimes I get upset when I don’t do that, and that is what I have to do. I have to emotionally let it go, and move on to the next pitch.
“Once that comes out, I promise you, there is a thought process over the next 15 seconds of the game, (the) batter, what we’re doing. That is one thing I hope never gets lost. I am an emotional guy, (but) there is a lot of thought process that goes into everything that we’ll do (Friday). I promise you that.”