Ailene Voisin

Opinion: Sixth inning does in S.F., starter Peavy

Giants starter Jake Peavy watches as Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar rounds first on his second-inning double. Peavy took the loss in Game 2, allowing four runs on six hits in five-plus innings.
Giants starter Jake Peavy watches as Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar rounds first on his second-inning double. Peavy took the loss in Game 2, allowing four runs on six hits in five-plus innings. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – If you live here, you’re thinking, life is good. The kids are all right. In the Royals’ first must-win World Series game in almost three decades, the postseason neophytes chased Giants starter Jake Peavy, clobbered the bullpen and frustrated Hunter Strickland into a mini-meltdown.

It was a strange evening, a very strange evening. Before the Royals finished off the 7-2 victory that evened this World Series at 1-1, Tim Lincecum even made a rare relief appearance, looked terrific, and then departed with a freak injury to his lower back.

Not that Bruce Bochy needed any reminders about who these Giants are and who they aren’t, but with a quick glimpse around the clubhouse, there they were: The ailing Lincecum. Matt Cain, out with a bum elbow. Tim Hudson, recovered from his ankle fracture of a year ago, but only weeks removed from being hampered with a sore hip; he gets the start Friday.

Peavy, another veteran who resumed his career after experimental shoulder surgery in 2010, fits right into the rotation. With the exception of ace Madison Bumgarner, Giants starters scuffle for wins, for innings, and rely heavily on the bullpen to close the deal. When the relievers falter, well, let’s just say it was a brutal sixth inning that turned bad very quickly.

The Giants had tied the score at 2-2 on a leadoff double by Pablo Sandoval and an RBI double by Brandon Belt in the fourth. While Royals starter Yordano Ventura was routinely throwing fastballs in the high 90s, occasionally cracking triple digits, Peavy calmed down after allowing two doubles and a run in the second inning, and commanded both his emotions and pitches.

He nibbled at the corners with his fastball, avoided mistakes across the middle of the plate, and used his sinker to work out of jams. Before the implosion – much of which had nothing to do with him – he had retired 10 consecutive Royals.

After he emerged from the dugout to begin the sixth, he appeared to be a man without a care in the world. He strode almost leisurely to the mound, at one point rotating his arms to loosen up, but didn’t mutter a word to himself or anyone else.

It was so un-Peavy-like. Unfortunately for the Giants, the sixth was too much like Peavy.

For all of his accomplishments – he won the National League Cy Young Award in 2007 – he has never lasted beyond the sixth inning in the postseason. In the previous 25 appearances, he compiled a record of 1-3, with a bulging ERA of 7.03. And his trouble in the sixth was immediate.

Lorenzo Cain blooped a single into center. Eric Hosmer worked him to a 3-0 advantage. Peavy said later that he tried to be fine, too cautious against the Royals’ cleanup hitter. The plan was to make quality pitches and keep the score tied.

“I was feeling really good with my breaking ball,” he said afterward. “I just missed with a pitch or two. He (Hosmer) didn’t chase the curveball.”

After Hosmer walked, manager Bruce Bochy approached the mound and quickly summoned right-hander Jean Machi, who gave up a go-ahead RBI single to Billy Butler.

Bochy then went to left-hander Javier Lopez , and he got Alex Gordon to fly out for the first out. Bochy then brought in the hard-throwing rookie Strickland, who threw a wild pitch, gave up a double to Salvador Perez, then served up the first postseason home run of Omar Infante’s career.

Craziness ensued. As Perez ran from third to home, words and looks were exchanged between the two. Both benches emptied, but order was quickly restored.

Strickland later acknowledged that he reacted out of frustration; this hasn’t been his postseason, for sure. Strickland has allowed five home runs this postseason.

Peavy, who at times has been victimized by his own emotions, suggested that cooler heads should prevail.

“That’s the furthest thing from our minds,” he said softly. “We’re not looking to fight. We’re not looking to have any problems with the other side. They’re an emotional bunch. We knew that coming in. We knew there were going to be times where they were really excited. We were prepared for that.”

With a half-smile he turned away. The next games are at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

The series and the fireworks change venues.

Call The Bee’s Ailene Voisin,

(916) 321-1208.

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