PHOENIX -- The Giants were half a game out of first place when they traded for Mike Leake. They thought he would be a difference-maker, someone who could help the team win the division and then line up behind Madison Bumgarner in a postseason series.
Leake and the Giants almost certainly won't be making October rotation plans, not after the eighth loss in 10 games dropped them eight back of the Dodgers with 24 to play and Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw still existing. It's nearly time to look toward next year, and manager Bruce Bochy hopes his spring plans include Leake.
"I certainly like him," Bochy said. "I like the way he competes, I like his stuff. I've known him a long time. You don't know what's going to happen, but if you're asking me, sure, who wouldn't want a Mike Leake?"
Leake will enter the market at 27 and figures to draw plenty of suitors. The Giants have made it clear that pitching will be their offseason priority, but the Dodgers need another arm, the Red Sox desperately need another starter or two, and many others -- including these Diamondbacks, who have their ace, Patrick Corbin, back -- will be looking for a pitcher with Leake's history of success.
His time with the Giants has not gone as planned, and the numbers took a big hit Monday when Leake gave up six runs on 11 hits. But he showed in this start why Bochy likes him so much: Leake pitched 5 2/3 innings at Chase Field and has gone at least six in his four other starts. Bochy doesn't care that the Giants are 1-4 with Leake on the mound.
"He's pitching well, though," he said. "Even today, I know we had to get him in the sixth, but he pounded the strike zone. He doesn't let things affect him. He keeps his composure. He finds a way to get you deep into the game on a consistent basis. You can't look at the wins and losses -- he's pitched very well."
Before Monday's outing, Leake had given up nine runs in 25 2/3 innings for the Giants, good for a tidy 3.16 ERA. Some of those starts might have been longer and better had it not been for a hamstring strain that cost Leake three turns in the rotation and then limited him when he first returned to the mound. The line might also look better with a little scheduling luck. Leake has faced Gerrit Cole, Clayton Kershaw, Michael Wacha and Corbin in his last four starts. His first start came against Martin Perez, and the young Rangers lefty gave up two hits in 8 2/3 innings. In the first half, this Giants offense might have been able to give Leake a chance on those nights. In the last month, he has had little wiggle room.
"We just couldn't do anything offensively," Bochy said after Corbin shut his guys out for six innings. "We had our chances."
Leake has fit well in the clubhouse, and he's not the type to complain about the fact that the Giants have scored five runs in his four losses.
"It just stinks because we're in the hunt and not winning when I pitch as much as I would like, but it's nothing to sulk over," he said. "You've got to keep competing."
--- Kelby Tomlinson made sure the Joe Panik injury wasn't a complete disaster, but the Giants still really, really missed their All-Star second baseman. Panik gave them a reminder of what they were missing on Monday, lining the seventh pitch of an at-bat over A.J. Pollock for a double. He scored the only Giants run.
"Good at-bat for Joe," Bochy said. "He threw out a really quality at-bat there and found a way to get a big hit."
The Giants beat pitchers in the first half by wearing them down, and Panik was a big part of that. He said being back on the big stage got the adrenaline going. "The competitive nature comes out when you're in an atmosphere like this," he said. Panik will start tomorrow.
Tim Hudson will also start tomorrow. That became clear when Tuesday starter Ryan Vogelsong ran out of the bullpen. Surprise!
Vogelsong was given a heads-up a couple days ago that Hudson would get another shot. Here's the story.