SAN FRANCISCO -- Jake Peavy pitched the Giants past the cross-bay A’s in the opener of their interleague Bay Bridge Series on Friday night, then said, on a grander scale, that he likes the direction in which his team is going.
"I think we’re starting to really get healthy," Peavy said. "I think we have the team that we envisioned out of spring training, and we’re starting to figure out who we are as a team. And that’s huge."
Peavy pitched into the seventh inning Friday night for the fourth time in four starts since returning from the disabled list. Hunter Pence, activated just before the All-Star Break, had four hits to lead the Giants’ 17-hit charge in a 9-3 win over the A’s at AT&T Park.
The Giants won for the sixth time in seven games since the Break and are 9-1 in their last 10 games overall. And Peavy said he believes it’s not by accident that run has coincided with the Giants -- who have juggled injuries to a handful of players expected to play key roles this season -- finally getting close to full strength.
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Nori Aoki, returning from a fractured fibula, is supposedly days away from rejoining the big-league team. At that point -- with Angel Pagan looking more mobile, Pence patrolling right field and Peavy and Matt Cain back in the rotation -- manager Bruce Bochy should be able to fill out a lineup card the way he expected to back in April.
"We’re getting more like the club that we envisioned having leaving spring training, and so that’s going to make us a different club," Bochy said Friday night. "I do think they’re hitting their stride. A lot of baseball left, you don’t want to get too giddy here. But at the same time, you have to love the way they’re playing."
The Giants scored 16 runs in their last two games of their recent road trip and carried the offense over despite an off-day Thursday. They also won their fourth consecutive game at home, a mini-streak in which they’ve totaled 36 runs.
While Pence recorded his 15th career four-hit game, Pagan reached base four times out of the leadoff spot, Buster Posey had three singles and every Giants starter -- even Peavy -- had a hit except for Joe Panik, who pitched in with a second-inning sacrifice fly. Jumping on A’s starter Jesse Chavez early, the Giants knocked the right-hander out in the fourth inning and gave Peavy a wide cushion for his second win of the year.
Afterward, Peavy pointed out this Giants surge is coming at a good time. The Giants face a daunting schedule in August -- they play the Cardinals twice, including on a road trip to St. Louis and Pittsburgh, and see the Nationals for a four-game series. They’ll also travel to Atlanta and Texas, which can be sweltering at this time of year.
"We certainly started well (out of the Break), and know we need to," Peavy said. "We know what we have ahead of us. Just want to hone in and really be the team that we know we are."
And then Peavy, a Grateful Dead fan, couldn’t resist a little homage to the band, and the song he uses for his warm-up music before starts:
"Hopefully we’ll just keep building on this momentum we have and … just keep pushing forward. Just keep truckin’ on, how about that? Sorry, get excited about the Dead -- way too excited."
* Peavy’s right arm, meanwhile, looks very much alive -- though he admitted to being a little frustrated with not being able to complete the seventh inning Friday night. Taking a 7-1 lead into the inning, Peavy allowed a leadoff home run to Ben Zobrist and a single to Billy Butler, which led Bochy to take him out of the game. Butler later scored to close the book on Peavy’s outing.
Still, in four starts since coming off the DL, Peavy has thrown 25 2/3 innings and allowed 10 runs, for a 3.51 ERA. He said he felt Friday night like he had "plenty to get through" the seventh inning, but understood Bochy’s decision to take him out after Butler’s single.
"He’s really pitched well since he’s come off the rehab," Bochy said. "I mean, he got healthy. When he’s healthy, that’s how he can throw the ball. He’s really been consistent since he’s been back."
* Butler scoring in the seventh marked the end of one of the season’s more remarkable streaks. George Kontos had inherited 26 runners entering Friday and stranded all 26 of them -- the only major-league reliever with a perfect record in that regard with at least 15 runners inherited.
But after replacing Peavy with Butler on first and nobody out, Kontos threw a wild pitch that sent Butler to second and then allowed a pair of singles, with Butler scoring on Eric Sogard’s liner to center. Kontos said losing the streak was "disappointing," but the fact that Butler’s run wasn’t costly in the game made it "a little easier to bear."
"It was something that I took pride in," Kontos said, "but now it’s time to start a new streak."
* Pence’s importance to the Giants is well-documented, but it’s worth pointing out that when he starts this season, the Giants are 22-7.
"He makes a difference," Bochy said. "He just has so much energy, but the talent, too. He plays a great right field, he can get a base hit, can hit a long ball. He certainly makes us a different club."
* The Giants have won 13 of their last 16 games against the A’s at AT&T Park. In game two of this series they’ll start Madison Bumgarner (10-5, 3.27), who in three career starts against the A’s is 1-2 with a 6.41 ERA. The A’s will counter with Chris Bassitt, who will be recalled officially from Triple-A before the game. First pitch at 1:05 p.m.