Giants

Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — Mike Leake asked Brandon Crawford to pick his walk-up song Wednesday and he ended up with a gem, “Ghetto Superstar.” Leake’s next decision will be a bit more complicated, and it’s a life-changing one he’ll have to make mostly on his own.

The right-hander hit free agency in superstar fashion, completely overwhelming the Dodgers in a two-hitter that was the first shutout of his big league career. The start — a 104-pitch masterpiece that included 19 outs on the ground — might have been Leake’s best as a big leaguer, and the timing couldn’t be better. It was his last one before free agency, and Leake is surely about to cash in.

After throwing his final pitch in a 5-0 win, Leake was ready to shift his focus forward. He said he hopes to make a quick decision.

“I’d rather not wait,” he said. “I’d like to pick a team and get ready to go with that team.”

[PAVLOVIC: Instant Replay: Leake goes distance, Giants top Dodgers]

Leake and the Giants haven’t had any significant talks since a late July trade that brought him over from Cincinnati, but he remains at or near the top of the offseason wish list. Larry Baer wasn’t in the clubhouse negotiating with Leake as he did with Hunter Pence late in the 2013 season, but it didn’t sound like Leake would be averse to such a tactic.

“It’s a strong possibility that this is a place I’d like to play,” Leake said. “It’s kind of wait-and-see. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Sometimes this game can be pretty predictable, though, and there are a lot of avenues that may lead Leake and the Giants to an agreement. Bruce Bochy has known him since he was a childhood teammate of Brett Bochy, and the front office has long chased Leake. He is a West Coaster at heart and went to Arizona State, which is just a few long tosses from the organization’s spring training facility in Scottsdale. Leake is represented by Beverly Hills Sports Council, an agency the Giants have worked with many times, from Tim Lincecum’s deals to the Pence extension. 

While the relationship wasn’t always smooth on the field the last two months, Leake has shown flashes of what he’s capable of. He has thrown at least six innings in seven of his nine starts, and for much of this season this was a team that lacked that kind of depth from starting pitchers. 

“He’s brought what we were hoping for,” Bochy said. “He’s young but yet he’s a veteran pitcher. He’s durable. He had the hiccup with the hamstring (strain) but that’s a freak deal. He knows what he’s doing out there. He’s got four pitches, and when he’s locked in he’s tough.”

The Dodgers found that out Wednesday. A soft single to center by Jimmy Rollins was the only hit until Carl Crawford reached on an infield single in the ninth. With the Giants bullpen needing a break, Leake retired 11 straight from the fifth through the eighth, getting into the ninth on just 94 pitches. 

It was the kind of quick and flawless performance that has the front office picturing what might be in a healthy season. They’d love to see what Leake can do with 33 starts in front of an infield defense anchored by four players who could all be Gold Glove candidates next season. Leake will be a priority, and Bochy didn’t shy away from casting his vote Wednesday.

“It’s obvious we like Mike a lot,” he said. “We traded for him … we think a lot of him, and that’s why we acquired him.”

Leake had some rough outings as the Giants fell out of the race, but he admitted Wednesday that a sore forearm has bothered him more than he has let on. He said he took the mound against the Dodgers with a “loose” body and “pretty clear mind" after weeks spent in the trainer's room.

The clutter will return when the season ends, and Leake said he’s not sure what to expect from his first foray into free agency. At 27, with a long record of durability and effectiveness, Leake will have no shortage of suitors. Leake said he’ll talk to his agent and his family and go over the many factors involved, but he’ll certainly sleep better Wednesday after rocketing into free agency with such a dominant performance.

“It was the Mike Leake Show,” Bochy said, smiling. 

The Giants hope it gets picked up for years to come.

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--- Nick Noonan hit his first career homer, and this one had to feel pretty good for reasons other than the obvious ones. Noonan thought he had his first homer in Pittsburgh two years ago but replay review sent him back to second base with a double. 

"Who invented that, anyway?" Noonan joked when asked about replay after that game.

His thoughts tonight? “I’m just glad it went over the fence this time.”

Noonan missed the 69th splash hit — and first this season — by a couple of feet. The Giants have four more games to make it happen.

--- This was the first season with full StatCast data, and there’s some cool stuff here. Pence and Crawford are mentioned.

--- Speaking of the offseason, my Facebook page is a good way to keep up on random stories and posts. I think I only need like 30,000 likes to reach Matt Maiocco. Get on it, people.

--- If you want to know how Matt Duffy turned into this version of Matt Duffy, go back and watch the eighth inning. Kenley Jansen threw a pitch up and in and Duffy smacked the next one into center field. He then stole second base on the first pitch to Crawford and raced around on Jarrett Parker’s single. A similar thing happened last month when Duffy sprained his ankle diving back into first. After a long injury delay, the Cubs threw over to first to make a hobbled Duffy dive back into the bag. On the next pitch, he stole second. 

That tells you a lot about the kind of player he is, and it explains why he’s so popular with teammates and the coaching staff. Oh, he added a two-run homer, too, and he leads the National League with 88 hits in the second half. In a somewhat lost season, the third baseman has been a huge bright spot.