Programming note: Pirates-Giants coverage starts Monday at 7 p.m. on NBC Bay Area
SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants will not see their archrivals again until Sept. 12. In the meantime, they have 40 games to play.
Will those 40 games be a long wander in the desert without Matt Cain and others? Will the Dodgers gorge themselves on milk and honey again, as they did while winning 53 of 65? Or will these two teams rendezvous with just a game and change separating them, just as they entered this series and just as they left it?
There are so many opinions. Bruce Bochy is paid to hold the sensible one.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Peavy loses debut as Dodgers sweep Giants]
“It doesn’t matter what they do,” said Bochy, after the Giants lost 4-3 on Sunday and were swept in three games. “They’re a good club, that’s well known. We have to play better ball. I’m very encouraged with how Jake threw the ball and how they fought today.”
It was not a hollow hope. The Giants cannot be sure Cain will throw another pitch this season, so they need Jake Peavy to be the same ornery, unyielding presence that he was when he last roamed the NL West in 2009. They believed he was more than the sum of his stats in Boston, where he was 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA and fat 1.43 WHIP. Even amid another loss, they were right.
Peavy snarled and spit fire in his Giants debut, enduring mistakes from second baseman Dan Uggla and catcher Buster Posey while allowing four runs (three earned) in six innings. He was better than serviceable, which is good. The Giants have little use for a broken rotation.
But they simply had too many breakdowns against a team that threw its top three pitchers in this series and held the Giants to just one extra-base hit.
Begin with Uggla’s two errors, which hearkened memories of his three-error game in the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. Two grounders got past him including one that led to an unearned run. He also went 1-for-2 when asked to turn a tough pivot on a double play.
Bochy said Joe Panik will play second base on Monday against the Pirates. But the manager likes players with track records, and until he has another proven option, it’s clear he’s going to give Uggla an opportunity to get established.
“Well, I think it’s going to get better,” Bochy said. “He’s probably a little rusty. It’s a tough game sometimes and he feels worse than anybody. I told him, `Hey, let’s wash this off and regroup as a team.’”
Expect Uggla to be back at second base Tuesday when left-hander Francisco Liriano starts for the Pirates. It won’t take much for Uggla to hang onto the bulk of playing time, although nothing will choke the leash faster than erratic defense. Uggla has three errors in three games.
Posey bore the rest of the defensive blame, notably in a three-run fifth inning that included two wild pitches and a third-strike toss to first base that Dee Gordon exploited to flash across the plate with an opportunistic run.
Posey said he was more upset with himself for not blocking the third strike to Gordon that skipped off the plate for a wild pitch that allowed him to reach base.
“There’s a perfect example of no matter the pitch, you’ve got to stay down,” Posey said. “I think it hit the plate and skipped.”
Everyone makes mechanical errors. But did Posey make a mental one when he knocked down the third strike to Adrian Gonzalez, and Gordon took advantage on a throw to first base?
“Well, you had Gonzalez running so he had time to check him,” Bochy said. “He threw to first without looking and Gordon’s got that kind of speed. That’s a tough inning for us, a tough inning for Jake.”
Said Posey: “I feel I glanced right as the ball bounced away. If I pump fake it, I don’t know … Hindsight is always 20/20.”
Posey called it “a weird inning. No excuses. I’ve got to do a better job.”
There was no blaming Peavy, who wasn’t just trying to make a good impression with a new club or prove to Bochy, his longtime manager with the Padres, that he still had the stuff and substance to win.
Peavy flew down the mound like he was storming out his front door, and the Dodgers were neighborhood kids blaring their car stereo.
While praising Posey’s reputation behind the plate, Peavy acknowledged that some of those mistakes, the wild pitches, might be avoided in the future after they have had a chance to work together a few times.
Peavy already knows what it means to work for Bochy again. It’s doubtful Bochy would have left the right-hander in the game to see his way through a lefty matchup in the sixth if not for the trust banked between them over the years in San Diego.
“That’s a huge comfort blanket, knowing what Bochy expects,” Peavy said. “You always want to know what your manager stands for and do the right thing by him. I know what Bruce Bochy is about. He raised me, really, from the time I was 20 years old. He taught me the game by speaking to me, and even not speaking to me. I think I’ll fit right in here and be ready to work.
“At the end of the day you guys know one side of Boch. He’s an intense man and he wants to win as much as anyone I’ve known in the game. That’s where I think we’re alike. Him being so even, it plays well for me because I am high strung out there. That’s one thing I can’t change.”
Peavy was hot from the very start. He protested so visibly to a strike call in the second inning, plate umpire Alfonso Marquez took off his mask and yelled back. Peavy wanted another strike call so badly that he stomped on the mound, was off balance when Posey accidentally spiked a throw to the mound, and fell over.
Posey was not surprised to see such an emotional presence on the mound. He out-Vogelsonged Vogelsong, if such a thing is possible.
“I’ve played against him a few times and watched him enough to know that’s how it’s going to be,” Posey said.
That is how it needs to be. There are 40 games over 46 days before the Giants will see the Dodgers again, and no matter how much posturing and preening they do, no matter what trades they make or how many games they win, the Giants absolutely must be firm in their starting five to match or exceed their pace. Getting Angel Pagan and Brandon Belt back would help, too.
The Giants entered a game and a half up. They parted company a game and a half back.
Peavy, for one, cannot wait to face them again.
“When you’ve got Matt Kemp, a guy you’re giving $100 million to, and he’s batting sixth, it tells you what kind of team they have,” he said. “I enjoy pitching against LA because it’s such a storied franchise. It’s always fun to pitch against the best, and the Dodgers, since I’ve been around, have always been one of the best teams going.”
The Giants had Adam Duvall, a Triple-A call-up, hitting sixth. Did Bochy consider himself outmanned in this series?
Sensible opinion in 3 … 2 … 1 …
“No, I’ll never think like that,” Bochy said. You’ll see growing pains but this is a tough group and they played hard today.”
Peavy wants another crack at LA. But as he looked down at his feet, he realized he’ll have to take care of some things earlier than others.
“I’m extremely excited to be here and get rid of these red shower shoes and bleed orange for these guys the rest of the year,” he said.