SAN FRANCISCO — It sounded so natural when Jake Peavy said it, and that’s what makes Matt Duffy’s season so amazing.
Peavy, talking after a 12-6 win over the Nationals, nodded toward Kelby Tomlinson’s locker and said the rookie second baseman “fits the mold” the Giants are looking for.
“He’s a Matt Duffy-ish type player,” Peavy said.
At this point, it’s hard to give a Giant a bigger compliment. Imagine that.
Duffy keeps getting better and better, and on Saturday he helped pace a lineup that continues to thrash big-name starters. The Giants have beaten Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez in this series, the latter two lasting just 5 2/3 combined innings. Duffy has six hits, five runs and eight RBI in the three games, further bolstering his Rookie of the Year case.
Skeeter’s caretaker had plenty of help Saturday. Gregor Blanco scored three more runs as the leadoff hitter. Brandon Belt had two hits, two runs and two RBI. Buster Posey drove in two runs and Tomlinson had a triple that started the game’s big rally and a double that helped put this one away.
Tomlinson, naturally, said he tries to mimic his former roommate. Duffy, after his jump from Double-A to stardom in under a year, has become a guide for many of the organization’s prospects.
“I wish my swing was more like his,” Tomlinson said, smiling. “We’re a little different in that area. If I can compete the same way, I can have success.”
Tomlinson and the rest of the organization’s prospects don’t need to copy Duffy’s swing, they just need to follow the mental approach. The rookie was hitting .300 on the first day of July and he has been between .283 and .310 every day since. There are good days and series, and there are days when Duffy takes an 0 for 5 in a prime spot of the lineup, but the down times never last.
Since the Giants cut ties with Casey McGhee on May 24 and made Duffy the third baseman, he has never gone more than two straight games without a hit. Read that again. The down times never last.
“I think it’s just from the consistency of my mental approach,” Duffy said. “I just keep it simple. I’m sure it sounds like a broken record but I look for a good pitch to hit and try to put a good swing on it. I base my confidence on whether I did that, got a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on it. If I do that, I’m not upset. That keeps my confidence level high.”
Duffy sleeps soundly after a hitless night if he felt he kept to his simple approach. He said he has wavered noticeably just once this season — shortly after he got the full-time job — but has mostly been able to stick with his mental approach. It’s easy to do when it continues to work.
There’s more to Duffy’s success, of course, and both Tomlinson and manager Bruce Bochy cited a swing that’s simple and effective. It showed on Duffy’s three-run double off Gonzalez, when he loaded, hesitated for a beat, and then roped a curveball into the left-field corner.
“He’s got that type of swing where he’s going to be consistent,” Bochy said. “He’s going to be a consistent hitter with that swing and balance.”
The swing has allowed the phrase “Matt Duffy-ish” to enter the clubhouse lexicon, and on Saturday it helped them get to the edge of a huge sweep. Bochy may be missing his Buster Posey clones, but he’s got Duffy and his clone to help pick up the slack.
“I really, really thought we needed to play well here at home to get back on track,” Bochy said. “The bats have come alive.”
--- You don’t walk the hitter in front of Kelby Tomlinson and get away with it. That’s right there in the rules.
In all seriousness, Tomlinson said he’s been in that situation a couple times before, “but not very often.” His double helped salt this one away. His triple started the big rally.
“It’s always a lot of fun whenever you put a big inning together,” he said. “Whenever you can be a part of it and start it, it just adds to it.”
Tomlinson has two triples in this series, and one of these days he might get four on a ball to Triples Alley. He said he hasn't had an inside-the-park homer since Little League.
Elsewhere on the Tomlinson front, my pal Hank Schulman made a good point today about the potential of Tomlinson playing the outfield. Tomlinson said he’s played just a couple of games out there in the Arizona Fall League, but he sure has the speed and athleticism to do it. He could be really interesting in a super-utility role next spring. The Giants viewed Duffy as that kind of talent this February and had him take fly balls.
--- The biggest moment of this game, according to Bochy and several hitters: Peavy’s walk. Said Peavy: “I know what that’s like on the other end. I knew we were in a good situation.” The walk seemed to totally deflate Gonzalez. The Giants went on to score six runs in the inning.
--- Peavy said he didn’t get a good look at Ian Desmond’s homer, but “I know he hit it a long way.” Bochy offered, “He ambushed him pretty good there.”
I’ve covered this team for four seasons and I’ve never seen a ball hit that far. Hunter Pence has hit that concourse a few times in BP and visitors like Giancarlo Stanton can put it there before games, but that was pretty unprecedented.
--- The Nationals have really given off a weird vibe this series. It showed again in the seventh, when Bryce Harper fouled a ball off his leg and bent over in serious pain — and it took a looooong time for anyone to leave the dugout or for Yunel Escobar to come over from the on-deck circle. Eventually a trainer came out and checked on Harper (Matt Williams never did), but looking at their dugout, there didn’t seem to be much concern. Harper flied out, limped to first and then looked seriously ticked when he got back to the dugout. He stared over at someone as he went down the steps.
Harper gets the vitriol from opposing fans, but he played his butt off every night of this series when a few in his lineup appear to be going half-speed. If you ever want an explanation for why the Nationals don't reach expectations — they’re .500 with that rotation? — go back and watch the lack of urgency when their best player had his leg dented. Maybe it’s silly, but that stuff matters in a clubhouse. Players noticed a couple years ago when Bochy and Dave Groeschner ran 350 feet in the thin air at Coors Field to check on Pence, who had hit an outfield wall.*
*When they got there, Pence was doing just fine. He was then asked to stay down for couple more minutes so everyone involved could recover.