PHOENIX — Jake Peavy’s start against the Blue Jays earlier this week wasn’t exactly what he wanted, but it was a step in the right direction. When Peavy went back and looked at the tape, he noticed that his best pitches weren’t the max-effort ones, but rather the ones when he dialed it down a notch.
One pitch in particular stood out, a cross-up that had Peavy changing his grip mid-windup and somehow getting an unbelievable amount of movement. Peavy was going to take that approach into Saturday’s start ... and then a stomach bug hit. As it turned out, a night of vomiting only made it that much easier to cut down on the effort and thus find a new level of execution.
Peavy threw six innings and allowed just one run Saturday, and while the Giants blew his win, Buster Posey’s two-out, bases-loaded double off a tough right-hander provided the margin in a tense 5-3 victory at Chase Field. The victory was the fourth straight. Short term, the Giants are looking forward to trying to avenge a Diamondbacks sweep at AT&T Park. Long term, they’re looking forward to seeing more of this Jake Peavy.
“He backed off a little, and he didn’t put as much effort in,” Bochy said. “He just had a good, smooth delivery the whole game. He didn’t grind so hard. Less is more sometimes, and it worked for him.”
Peavy was still washed out after the effort, but the stomach won’t be churning when he faces the Cubs next week. He said he’ll try to find some common ground between the max effort delivery that comes naturally to him and the more laid-back approach that worked Saturday.
“It was almost two polar opposite starts if you watch the last one compared to this one,” Peavy said. “You’ve got to learn. I think a good blend of the (last) two is perfect. I think you learn a lot. The results haven’t been about stuff, it’s been execution. That’s been the story of the year, the execution for the most part hasn’t been as good as it needs to be. Today showed a lot that if you (command) the ball, it doesn’t matter (what the velocity) is.”
Peavy said he went 100 percent on nearly every pitch in his last start because he knew his back was against the wall. When you’re struggling, he said, “You need to walk away knowing you gave every last bit of effort.” This week has earned him some breathing room, and his teammates are happy to see it.
“We know what Jakes brings to the ballpark every day,” right fielder Hunter Pence said.
What Pence brought Saturday was his usual thunder, and that staked Peavy to an early 3-1 lead. The Diamondbacks opened their roof right before the fourth and the park got considerably warmer. With Posey on first, Pence hit a low screamer to left that the bench, left fielder Rickie Weeks Jr., and Pence himself didn’t think would get out. Ten minutes earlier, maybe it hits off the wall instead.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” Pence said. “The roof, nature, the elements, sometimes they get you and sometimes they help you. You never know.”
The blast was the 200th of Pence’s career. After years of somewhat ignoring milestones, he said he is starting to collect items from his career. The Giants got the ball for Pence’s collection.
Pence said he was very appreciative of the opportunity to reach 200 in the big leagues. Then he pivoted, and said the homer meant a bit more because the Giants won.
That took some effort after Derek Law and Hunter Strickland gave runs back. Conor Gillaspie led off the ninth with a single off Daniel Hudson, who then plunked Denard Span. The leadoff hitter reached base all five times he walked up to the plate.
“What a game he had, huh?” Bochy said. “Off lefties, too. He just threw out some great at-bats all night.”
Joe Panik walked to load the bases, but Matt Duffy hit into a fielder’s choice, failing to score a run and leaving the bases loaded. Posey had just three hits in his previous 30 at-bats with runners in scoring position, but Bochy said he actually viewed that as a silver lining. Posey is too good a hitter, Bochy thought, to slump much longer. A breakout was coming.
Posey was sitting fastball but he got a 1-1 changeup and inside-outed it to deep right-center. The double was the first hit Hudson had allowed to a right-hander.
“It’s probably a good thing not knowing,” that before the at-bat, Posey said. “I was just really trying to see it. Try to see it and put a good swing on it.”
Posey wasn’t the only one on the bench who didn’t know right-handed hitters had been 0-for-26 off Hudson.
“I was not aware of that,” Pence said. “It makes me feel a little better about my at-bat.”
Pence couldn’t pad the lead, but he had already done enough. With Santiago Casilla unavailable after throwing three straight days, Bochy turned to Cory Gearrin, who picked up his first save since 2013.
After a rough homestand, the Giants have won four straight and they’ve set themselves up to potentially have a launchpad of a road trip. Matt Cain goes for the sweep Sunday, and then the top of the rotation pitches against the fourth-place Padres, who are so banged-up that they're listing "To Be Announced" as their starters all week.
The lineup is starting to find a groove, and it’ll be a lot more dangerous if Posey gets back to his old self in big spots.
“They usually get back to who they are,” Bochy said.
He’s hoping the same is true of Peavy.