SAN FRANCISCO – You are not surprised to learn that Yusmeiro Petit is a man of few words. You shouldn’t be, anyway, if you’ve borne witness to his laconic work on the mound.
After he went the distance on 84 pitches in the Giants’ 5-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks Tuesday night, after he became the most efficient pitcher to throw a nine-inning complete game in the franchise’s San Francisco-era recorded history, after he made it into the fifth inning before throwing ball two to any hitter, made it to the handshake line without ever throwing ball three, and after he learned that his next outing would come not only against the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers but against Cy Young automaton Clayton Kershaw, Petit smiled and said this:
It will be.
There is nobility in an uncluttered mind. On the mound, there is a beauty in it.
One year and three days after Petit came within a strike of throwing a perfect game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the well-traveled right-hander put forth a start that was by some measures even more impressive. He scattered four hits and erased two of them on double-play grounders. He faced the minimum in seven of nine innings. He pumped first-pitch strikes to 26 of 29 batters, and missed the zone a grand total of 16 times.
The run he allowed came in the fourth on a splash home run off the bat of Ender Inciarte, like Petit, a native of Maracaibo in the far west of Venezuela.
He struck out nine and, obvious as a red dress, he did not walk a batter. This should astound you: Petit has struck out 41 since his last unintentional walk on July 22. That was three starts and six relief appearances ago.
The game was over in two hours, 29 minutes, and that’s only because Arizona left-hander Wade Miley kept missing the dartboard. He amassed 58 pitches in his two innings. Petit arrived at that number in the seventh.
“I want to stay ahead of the count. I want to throw a strike all the time,” Petit said. “When I’m behind, it’s hard. It’s difficult to pitch behind in the count.”
Yes, but every pitcher wants to control the count. Desire and deed are not the same. So how is Petit doing what he wants, seemingly at will?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I throw the same ball down in the zone. That’s the key. You have to focus. Throw the ball down every time.”
And if he does that against Kershaw?
“He’s a great pitcher, but he’s a human being as well,” Petit said. “He can make mistakes, too. It’s a game.”
The Giants literally controlled this game from the start. Miley issued two of his four walks with the bases loaded and Joe Panik, although he didn’t score a run or knock one in, contributed to all three scoring rallies while becoming the first Giants rookie to collect five hits since Fred Lewis in 2007. He’s the youngest Giants second baseman with a five-hit game since Tito Fuentes in 1966.
Panik grew up emulating Wade Boggs and Derek Jeter, and right now he’s a wall poster come to life. Just 56 games into his major league career, he already matched the all-time franchise record for Giants second basemen with his third four-hit game of the season.
Marco Scutaro doesn’t have a five-hit game in his career.
“You step in that lineup and honestly, you know you’re just part of that chain,” said Panik, who upped his average to .327. “That’s the mentality you try to take. I wouldn’t say it’s easy. But swing, approach, everything is on point. You don’t know what the next day will bring. Hopefully it’ll work out.”
Panik also took part in both double plays that Petit induced, crediting the pitcher’s efficient pace with keeping defenders on the balls of their feet. Miley did the opposite. His defenders stood around and considered taking up crocheting, which might have contributed to a poor throw from shortstop Didi Gregorius that spoonfed the Giants their second run.
Petit force-fed the Diamondbacks from there.
Catcher Andrew Susac was icing in the trainer’s room, even though his body felt like he caught five innings instead of nine.
“It doesn’t matter who he’s pitching against,” said Susac, who was catching Petit for the third time. “He takes the same mentality out there into every game. He knows exactly what he wants to do. We don’t even go over hitters that much before games. He just likes to go out there and see what’s working, and just sort of hammers the zone with it, I guess. … He’s got that sneaky fastball, with the way he comes at you. He’s got some deception and he takes advantage of it. You can see that in the strikeouts.
“He’s got a reliever’s mentality even though he’s starting right now.”
It was that mentality that allowed Petit to set a major league record Aug. 28 when he retired 46 consecutive batters over eight appearances, six of them out of the bullpen. One of those appearances came on 10 days of rest. Most of them involved short notice, or less than that.
The only ones complaining at AT&T Park might have been the vendors. There just wasn’t enough time for a mid-inning snack.
Petit became the first major league pitcher in more than two years (Boston’s Aaron Cook, in 2012) to throw a nine-inning complete game on 84 pitches or fewer. And while there is some confusion over this, the Giants believe that Petit’s 84 pitches were the fewest recorded in a nine-inning complete game in the club’s San Francisco era. (Bill Swift threw 85 pitches on Sept. 17, 1993, at Cincinnati, according to STATS LLC. It was 82 pitches, according to Baseball-Reference.com. The Elias Sports Bureau, baseball's official statistician, does not have pitch data for that game. Regardless, there are scads of box scores for which pitch counts are incomplete or not available. Juan Marichal could've twirled a 65-pitch CG for all we know.)
Wherever Petit’s 84-pitch performance ranked on the efficiency scale, there is no denying it edged the Dodgers a little closer to their archrivals in an NL West race that keeps adding more and more intrigue.
Now if only the Giants can keep it simple from here.
“We were just pounding heaters -- a lot of heaters,” said Susac said. “It wasn’t even a lot of location to the corners. He just threw it down and it was, `Here it is.’”
And whatever will be, will be.