SAN FRANCISCO -– The Giants couldn’t impact their playoff destination when they took the field Saturday. But they did more than munch popcorn in a 3-1 victory over the San Diego Padres.
Hunter Strickland picked up his first major league win. Gary Brown bunted for his first big league hit. Hunter Pence kept his consecutive games streak alive at 382, the longest current run in the majors, with a pinch hitting appearance. Santiago Casilla stayed sharp with another stress-free save.
Jake Peavy treated his first career start against the Padres, the team that drafted and raised him, as a tuneup for a potential Game 1 start of an NL Division Series at Washington.
And Brandon Crawford, with a tiebreaking, two-run broken-bat single in the eighth inning, raised his September average to .371 while matching Buster Posey for the club lead with 16 RBIs this month.
“He’s been swinging as well as anybody,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s shortened up and it’s been one quality at-bat after another. He’s the guy we want up there, to be honest.”
Can there be any doubt that Peavy is the pitcher they want on the mound to start a series against the Nationals, should they survive the wild card knockout game?
Peavy has a 2.17 ERA in 12 starts since joining the Giants in July. He puts every bit of meat and gristle into every pitch. He fires out a verbal lashing to himself any time he misses a pitch, even when it’s fouled back. He wants to have every strike, every play, every result.
“I want to pitch next weekend as bad as you could ever imagine,” said a flu-ridden Peavy, after holding the Padres to a run while throwing 92 pitches in five innings. “I’ll put my heart and soul into my next start, I promise you that. We all in this room believe there’s going to be another weekend of baseball. That’s just the only way you can look at it.”
Peavy said he would gladly take the ball if needed in Wednesday’s wild card game, too, if Bochy needed to bridge innings following Madison Bumgarner. It’ll be interesting to see whether Bochy even puts Peavy on the roster.
“It’s an all-hands-on-deck deal,” Peavy said.
Peavy will have his choice of ports after this season. He’s got a lot of mileage on his odometer, but he’s a year removed from major lat surgery and at 33, he’s still quite a bit younger than Tim Hudson or Ryan Vogelsong. He will have suitors. The Giants are sure to be one of them.
“I love it here,” said Peavy, who came up as a 21-year-old with the Padres when Bochy was his manager. “It’s been a breath of fresh air to come right into a pennant race with familiar faces. I couldn’t ask for anything more. It’s been a great run, but at the end of the day, we want more.”
He was 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA in 20 starts with the Red Sox, and went 18 consecutive assignments without a win from late April till mid-August. But the Giants had him scouted right when they agreed to part with pitching prospects Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree. Peavy’s stuff translated better with a return to the NL West, and some mechanical adjustments helped as well.
“I was really getting around the ball in Boston,” said Peavy, who was compensating for some nagging lower half injuries. “They pointed that out to me. There are people here who know me.”
The crowd at AT&T Park got better acquainted with Brown, a 2010 first-round pick whose first major league hit might have come a bit later than he or the fans expected. Getting his first big league start, Brown dropped a bunt in his second at-bat.
Taking advantage of the defense, or just trying to alleviate that first-hit headache?
“Maybe a little of both,” Brown said. “I walked up and saw the third baseman was back a little bit so I said, 'Screw it.' I gave it a chance and it worked out.”
He actually missed first base because the Padres’ first baseman cut across the bag and Brown kicked his glove before hitting the dirt. He knew even if the umpire didn’t see it, the replays would. So he rushed back to touch up.
Then he got to soak up a standing ovation.
“Oh man, that helps,” Brown said. “I feel like I can breathe. I was walking around pretty tight, a little wound up. To be here at home for that was really neat. … I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just pumped and I was laughing for all I know. It was so awesome. It’s definitely something I’ve dreamed of for a long time. I’ve got a lot of friends back home that didn’t get the opportunity, so I’m very thankful.”
Crawford put the Giants ahead immediately after pinch hitter Pablo Sandoval struck out on three big whiffs in the eighth. Crawford noted that Sandoval was seeing fastballs for strikes, so he geared himself up for the first pitch. It broke his bat, but he was able to dump it into right field for a tiebreaking single.
“Yeah, I really crushed it to right,” said Crawford, in his usual deadpan. “I didn’t hit it like I wanted to, but it worked out.”
As for Strickland, who got doused with salad dressing at Dodger Stadium after picking up his first save … well, maybe they’ve already spilled everything there is to spill in the clubhouse. Or maybe you don’t have a room steam cleaned twice in a week. His first big league win was met with quiet congratulations.
He’ll definitely be on the postseason roster, and be one of the most trusted bullpen arms. As a reminder, the Giants plucked him off waivers from the Pirates two years ago – when Pittsburgh designated him for assignment so they could add Jonathan Sanchez to the roster.