San Francisco Giants

Jake Peavy’s gem gives Giants major-league-best 53rd victory

San Francisco Giants pitcher Jake Peavy works against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning of a baseball game Monday, July 4, 2016, in San Francisco. Peavy pitched into the seventh inning and held a potent Rockies lineup to one run.
San Francisco Giants pitcher Jake Peavy works against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning of a baseball game Monday, July 4, 2016, in San Francisco. Peavy pitched into the seventh inning and held a potent Rockies lineup to one run. The Associated Press

The Giants have a handful of players with strong arguments to be part of the National League All-Star team when its roster is unveiled Tuesday afternoon. Jake Peavy is not one of them, though had he pitched the entire first half as well as he has his past eight starts, he might have a case.

Peavy pitched into the seventh inning while holding a potent Colorado Rockies lineup to one run on a sun-soaked Fourth of July afternoon at AT&T Park. Buster Posey and Angel Pagan backed him with home runs, and the Giants beat the Rockies 3-1 to become the first team with 53 wins this season.

In his past eight starts, Peavy has a 2.27 ERA, with the Giants winning six of those games. He left the mound Monday to a standing ovation from an announced crowd of 41,874 at AT&T Park, which he acknowledged “feels a whole lot better” than some of his walks to the dugout earlier this season, when he posted an 8.21 ERA through his first nine starts.

23-5 Giants’ record in their last 28 games against division opponents

“I think more than anything he’s just doing a good job of pitching: backing off a little bit, changing speeds, hitting his spots,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He was going a little hard there when things weren’t going well. And I think he’ll say the same – it’s just better for him to back off a little bit and pitch.”

The Rockies’ best chance against Peavy came in the second inning, when Ryan Raburn doubled with one out, Mark Reynolds singled and Nick Hundley walked to load the bases. Peavy then whirled and made a pickoff throw to first baseman Brandon Belt, who was not standing near the bag. Peavy was called for a balk, forcing in a run.

Peavy said he was “confused on the rule” and added, “I just thought if I threw the ball to Belt, we were fine.” He kept the inning from snowballing, striking out pitcher Tyler Anderson and getting Charlie Blackmon to ground out.

“That could’ve been the difference in the game right there,” Posey said. “Getting out of that inning, limiting it to just one run there, was very important.”

Posey, who led N.L. catchers in All-Star fan voting when the last totals were released, bolstered his case in the bottom of the second with his 10th home run this season. In his past 20 games, Posey is batting .403 (29 for 72) with 18 runs and 12 RBIs, raising his average 40 points to .291.

Pagan gave the Giants the lead in the third with a two-run homer off Anderson, a measure of redemption after Pagan broke late on Reynolds’ bloop hit to center in the second.

Peavy, meanwhile, did not allow another runner past first base after the second, thanks partly to right fielder Mac Williamson, who made a diving catch of Reynolds’ sinking liner leading off the seventh. Peavy retired Hundley on a fly ball before Christian Adames singled to knock Peavy out of the game after 109 pitches.

“I was searching to find some things,” Peavy said of his early season struggles. “That being said, I told you guys time and time again I expect to be the guy that I’ve been here the last eight starts … I expect what I’ve been doing out of myself, and we certainly have a lot better handle on things mentally and physically at this point in time.”

I think more than anything he’s just doing a good job of pitching: backing off a little bit, changing speeds, hitting his spots. He was going a little hard there when things weren’t going well. And I think he’ll say the same – it’s just better for him to back off a little bit and pitch.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy, on Jake Peavy

The Giants’ defense, which failed Peavy in his last start in Oakland, and their bullpen, which has been much maligned the past week, sealed the win. Javier Lopez ended the seventh by getting Blackmon to pop out to third baseman Ruben Tejada, who made a difficult running catch in foul territory.

Three relievers combined to pitch the eighth, including Sergio Romo, who was reinstated from the disabled list before the game and hadn’t appeared since April 10 because of a strained flexor tendon. Romo retired DJ LeMahieu on an acrobatic backhanded play by shortstop Brandon Crawford before allowing a double to Nolan Arenado.

Josh Osich then threw one pitch to Carlos Gonzalez, who grounded out, and Derek Law got Trevor Story to hit a grounder back up the middle, where second baseman Grant Green made a backhanded stop and threw across his body.

“Peavy threw the ball great last time, and we couldn’t step up for him,” said Williamson, the main culprit in that defensive meltdown against the A’s. “It was great to have his back today and really support a strong pitching effort.”

Santiago Casilla pitched a perfect ninth, striking out the final two batters, for his 20th save in 24 chances. For all the injuries and bullpen woes, the Giants won for the 17th time in their past 23 games and are 23-5 in their last 28 games against division opponents.

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