ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Giants went down quickly in the top of the second inning, but not as quickly as Mike Leake hopped back out of the dugout. The newest Giant was on the mound and throwing warmup pitches to Buster Posey before any of his other fielders had even left the dugout. Leake was done throwing with 58 seconds left on the pace-of-play clock in center field. A couple innings later, he started warming up as Rangers outfielders were still running off the field.
"I like to work fast," Leake said. "I don't like to mess around. I just attack and see what happens. Keep the fielders involved and work at a good pace where they're staying attentive."
Hunter Pence was the DH on Sunday, but after a 2-1 loss he sure sounded like a guy who can't wait to play right field behind Leake. Fielders like nothing more than a starter who works quickly and keeps them on their toes, and Leake, at 19.1 seconds between pitches, has the sixth-fastest pace in the National League. He immediately becomes the Giants leader, just ahead of Chris Heston (20.3).
"He's springy," Pence said. "Uplifting and upbeat. He just gets out there and goes. He's in attack mode."
The Giants have had their fair share of guys recently who nibble and work the edges, but Leake went right at the Rangers and that's what he always does. He threw 20 strikes and just five balls in the first two innings, and pitched around a flare to center that originally looked to be the third out of the first. Leake threw 69 pitches in the first five innings and finished at 93 pitches in 6 1/3. He gave up two earned on eight hits and two walks, striking out five and getting 11 outs on the ground.
"He threw great, he really did a nice job," manager Bruce Bochy. "He had good command, good stuff, mixed it up well. He pitched well in traffic. He did a great job. In this ballpark, going into the seventh with two runs, you'll take that. You see the energy in this kid. The way he runs out to the mound, moves around, his pace."
Leake made just one big mistake, hanging a curveball to Josh Hamilton. The two-run homer was the difference.
"Just a bad pitch," he said. "And he took advantage of it."
Leake has given up 15 homers this season, but life will be much easier at AT&T Park. Jake Peavy gave up a ton of homers in Boston last year but dominated down the stretch in San Francisco, and the Giants think Leake will make a similar impact. He said it was a "little different" at first to put on a new jersey, "But once we got going, it felt like just another game."
Leake felt he clicked with Buster Posey, and he's surely happy he doesn't have to face the catcher anymore. Posey was 6 for 16 when Leake was a Red, with a homer and three RBI. Pence is 13 for 31 against Leake, but he never quite felt comfortable in those at-bats.
"It's a tough at-bat because he's got the ball moving every direction in all sorts of speeds and he locates," Pence said. "We know we got a really outstanding talent and a pitcher with a lot of feel for the game."
The first start was a good old-fashioned Caining. That might be an initiation ritual for Giants pitchers, who knows. But all involved see far better days ahead.
--- Posted this earlier: A game story from today's 2-1 loss. Pence talks about the final two outs and Bochy talks about the decision to hold Nori Aoki at third.
--- If you missed it this morning, a stiff back kept Joe Panik out of the lineup for the third time this week. Panik talked to reporters after the game and said a day of treatment didn't help. "It's not getting any better," he said. Panik definitely looked down, and he said he was "frustrated" by not being able to get out on the field and help his teammates. He doesn't know what comes next because he has never dealt with a back injury, but it seems likely that the Giants will send him for tests at some point. The hope is that he's back on the field in a day or two, but you just never know with the back.
--- Adam Duvall is more blocked in Cincinnati than he was in San Francisco, with Joey Votto locked into a long-term deal and Todd Frazier set for his own long run there. Well, Duvall was playing left field in his Triple-A debut for the Reds' Louisville Bats affiliate, so maybe that’s where they’ll stick him. The Giants tried that briefly but it wasn’t a good fit.