SAN FRANCISCO — For nearly two minutes, as the dirt around third base sat untouched, the pace of play clock in center field might as well have been counting down the final seconds of the Giants season.
The Giants took the field in the top of the second without Matt Duffy, who remained in the dugout as Jake Peavy finished his warmups. Duffy had jammed his ankle in the bottom of the first and was getting it taped so he could return to the field and prevent a nightmare scenario for Bruce Bochy. The manager has Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan and Joe Panik on the DL. Brandon Crawford has a tight oblique. Gregor Blanco was a late scratch with a hip injury, meaning Juan Perez, the outfielder-turned-backup-infielder was already the starter in center.
In the dugout, as Duffy got his ankle wrapped, Bochy morphed into a talk-radio caller. He looked out at the field and thought about telling Buster Posey to grab someone’s third-base glove and head for the hot corner for the first time since the Cape Cod League nearly a decade ago.
Two hours later, the Giants celebrated one of their best wins of the season.
Jake Peavy was sharp into the seventh, Posey broke from a slump with the go-ahead RBI double and the bullpen was magnificent as the Giants beat the the Cubs for the first time in six tries.
“It was a big win, no doubt about it,” said Posey, who isn’t prone to hyperbole.
“We needed this game,” Peavy said. “I don’t think it was a secret.”
Bochy agreed with his battery after the 4-2 victory.
“We’re banged up, but they fought today,” he said. “That’s a great win for us.”
The Giants still have plenty of issues health-wise, but they caught a break — finally — on Wednesday. Duffy stayed down for nearly a minute when he hurt his ankle sliding back into first, but he stayed in the game and even defiantly stole second after the Cubs threw over to first on the very first pitch after the injury delay. An X-ray revealed that the third baseman and Rookie of the Year frontrunner has a sprain but not a break.
Blanco said he got treatment all night for a sore hip and he was available to pinch-hit. He thinks he may be ready to play as soon as Thursday. Crawford is hopeful that he can return as soon as Friday.
The Giants are the walking wounded, but they found a way to win Wednesday by doing the little things. Kelby Tomlinson saw that Anthony Rizzo was way off the bag at first, so he took a ridiculously big lead with the bases loaded and then beat the throw to second to allow a run to score on what should have been an inning-ending groundout. Hunter Strickland and Javier Lopez got strikeouts in a strikeout situation after Nori Aoki’s error. Posey had a hit with a runner in scoring position and Tomlinson added another. Aoki put some air back into the park with a leadoff homer following a sloppy top of the first inning.
Through it all, Peavy yelled and glared and buckled down, determined to prove that he’s worthy of pitching near the top of this rotation. He said he’s trying to pitch like an ace.
“Today was ‘win day’,” Peavy said.
It finally was for the Giants after a sweep at Wrigley Field last month and a near-blowout loss Tuesday. They’ll come in Thursday and Bochy will find some way to glue a lineup together. His office was full of executives late Wednesday night, and while Bochy didn’t think a move for an infielder (Kevin Frandsen would be a good fit right now) was coming, at some point someone in that room might point out that carrying eight pitchers isn’t ideal when you’re one strain or sprain away from putting your MVP catcher at third base for the first time as a professional.
Regardless, the Giants left the park Wednesday smiling. This big series is tied, and as several players pointed out, the Giants, even as banged-up as they are, have a big advantage in the finale: Madison Bumgarner will take the mound.