SAN FRANCISCO — Chad Chop, the left-handed batting practice pitcher for the Giants, walked out of the indoor cage Sunday afternoon with a big smile on his face.
“Belt is going to hit a homer tonight,” he said. “He had his home-run swing in there.”
The stroke was missing in action through two strikeouts as Brandon Belt and the rest of the Giants tried to adjust to a Julio Urias. They were seeing the 19-year-old phenom for the first time, and as they tried to pick up his 95 mph fastball and funky delivery, the Giants also dealt with the wicked shadows that engulf the infield early in Sunday Night Baseball games.
When the view cleared, Belt hit a center-cut slider out to right-center, making good on a pre-game premonition and giving Jake Peavy and the bullpen a cushion that would hold up in a 2-1 win.
The victory was Peavy’s 150th and came at the tail end of a week that was mostly spent rehabbing a stiff neck. Manager Bruce Bochy quietly had Albert Suarez in reserve, but Peavy spent Saturday with the training staff and cleared himself Sunday. He then went out and pitched six shutout innings to clinch a series win.
Peavy said he said he didn’t take any extra satisfaction in showing a young super-prospect that a 35-year-old has still got it. On this night, that was unnecessary.
“You don’t need any more motivation to beat the Dodgers in a swing game on Sunday night,” Peavy said. “I showed up today thinking I’ll try to beat Clayton Kershaw if he’s out there.”
The Giants lost to Kershaw on Friday night but bounced back to stun the Dodgers on Saturday. Peavy said the momentum from the extra-innings rally carried over into the clubhouse on Sunday, and this win gave the Giants a five-game lead in the National League West.
Neither team looked particularly potent early. Urias and the Giants were seeing each other for the first time, maybe the first of dozens of times, and they felt each other out as the sun started to dip.
The general consensus in the clubhouse was that Urias has great stuff and tremendous poise for a pitcher his age, and several Giants noted how he didn’t panic when Mac Williamson hit a slow roller with two runners on in the second. Urias looked for third but Justin Turner wasn’t there, so he turned and whipped a long throw across the diamond for the out. He then got Gregor Blanco to fly out and struck out three Giants the next inning.
“For 19 years old, he showed a lot of poise out there,” Bochy said. “It was packed. He didn’t seem in awe of anything.”
Urias smartly played to the shadows, feeding the Giants a steady stream of 93-to-95 mph fastballs that they couldn’t catch up to.
“He’s got quite a bit of life on the ball,” Belt said. “He definitely hides it from lefties well. He had good stuff today and you’ve got to give him credit. You hope he makes a mistake. Fortunately he did, and I was able to capitalize on it.”
Belt’s homer shot out to deep right-center, giving Peavy a lead as he walked back to the clubhouse. His neck had knotted up a couple of times, and Peavy, who tends to fight to stay in games, felt he had to tell Bochy that he shouldn’t go on.
“I told the truth,” Peavy said. “You want to stay in the game as a competitor. But at that point in time I knew I was feeling it.”
Six relievers teamed up for the final nine outs, with the Dodgers scoring just once on Joc Pederson’s solo homer off Hunter Strickland. Santiago Casilla got the final two outs, capping an emotional up-and-down week with his 13th save and clinching Peavy's third win of the season.
After Saturday’s win, Peavy found 25-year-old Chris Stratton and told him not to worry about the fact that he gave up the go-ahead run before getting his first win. “You take them any way you can get them,” said Peavy, who backed up that mentality with a grinding performance Sunday that included a diving attempt at first base.
The first of those 150 came as a 21-year-old with the Padres. The latest one came against a kid young enough to talk shop with Peavy’s oldest son, who turns 15 in a week, but on this day it was Peavy who at times felt like a teenager, even with that aching neck.
“I’ll hang around as long as they let me,” he said, smiling wide. “See if I can find a way to beat ‘em.”