Giants take 1-0 lead over the Nationals in the NLDS behind Jake Peavy’s strong outing

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Jake Peavy was no one’s idea of a post-season hero at the time he was traded from the Red Sox to the Giants in late July. The 33-year-old right-hander compiled an ugly 4.72 ERA over 124 innings for the Red Sox, showing further decline in his strikeout and walk rates. The veteran, it appeared, was continuing the downward trend that had been established back in 2010, his first year with the White Sox. The Giants, hungry for starting pitching depth, decided to take a gamble, sending prospects Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree to Boston for Peavy.

Peavy turned his season around, posting a 2.17 ERA over 12 starts with the Giants in the final two months of the regular season. Though he still didn’t rediscover his swing-and-miss stuff, his control improved immensely and he was much tougher to square up, allowing just three home runs compared to 20 with the Red Sox.

Peavy carried his rediscovered success into the post-season, confounding the Nationals over 5 2/3 innings. He brought a no-hitter into the fifth inning, losing it when Bryce Harper led off the frame with an infield single. It was one of only two hits he would allow on the afternoon. The other was a double to pinch-hitter Nate Schierholtz, leading off the sixth.

The sixth inning was the Nationals’ first taste of an offensive rally, but they were unable to capitalize on it. Following Schierholtz’s double, both Denard Span and Anthony Rendon popped up, failing to advance the runner to third base. Jayson Werth drew a walk, ending Peavy’s solid afternoon.

Javier Lopez came in and walked Adam LaRoche, then gave way to flamethrowing reliever Hunter Strickland, who struck out Ian Desmond on a 100 MPH fastball to end the threat and the inning. Peavy’s line: 5 2/3 innings, two hits, three walks, three strikeouts. But most importantly: zero runs.

Strickland remained in the game in the bottom half of the seventh and the Nationals took advantage. Bryce Harper led off the inning by crushing a Strickland fastball into the upper deck in right field, and Asdrubal Cabrera followed up with a solo home run of his own with one out. That was the extent of the scoring for the Nationals, though.

Sergio Romo got into a bit of hot water in the bottom of the eighth, putting runners on first and second with one out following singles by Anthony Rendon and Adam LaRoche. Romo fanned Ian Desmond on a slider way out of the zone, then got Harper to hit into a fielder’s choice. Santiago Casilla took the hill in the ninth, needing only seven pitches to set the Nationals down in order for the save, preserving the Giants’ 3-2 victory. Peavy was credited with the win, his first in six playoff starts.

Starting Peavy in Game 1 was less-than-ideal for the Giants, but it was necessary after relying on Madison Bumgarner to pitch them past the Pirates in the National League Wild Card game just to have the privilege to oppose the Nationals in the NLDS. It worked out better than the Giants could ever have realistically expected. Tomorrow, the Giants will have to rely on another veteran right-hander as Tim Hudson takes on Jordan Zimmermann, who no-hit the Marlins on the final day of the regular season.

Tigers manager Gardenhire announces immediate retirement

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
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DETROIT — Ron Gardenhire mostly maintained his jovial demeanor this season. As recently as Friday night, he was needling a reporter while discussing a strategic decision from the late innings.

Less than 24 hours later, Gardenhire announced his retirement. This year was taking more of a toll on the 62-year-old Detroit Tigers manager than he’d necessarily let on.

As much as he enjoyed managing, Gardenhire valued his health more.

“It’s been wonderful here, but I also know I have to take care of myself,” said Gardenhire, who was nearing the end of his third season with the Tigers. “When you come to the ballpark, and you’re stressed out all day, and your hands are shaking, that’s not fun. I’ve got grandbabies, I’ve got kids that I need to take care of, and my wife.”

Gardenhire’s announcement came in an abruptly scheduled video conference about an hour before Saturday night’s game against Cleveland. General manager Al Avila said he made a routine visit to Gardenhire’s office Saturday, when the manager told him about the decision.

Gardenhire, who has battled cancer and diabetes, recently missed a couple games because of stomach issues.

“This is tough. It’s a tough day for me. Didn’t expect it, tell you the truth, when I walked in,” Gardenhire said. “But I just know how I’ve been feeling lately, and I expressed that to Al, and elected to just go ahead and step down.”

A message of “Thank you, Gardy” was posted on the scoreboard at Comerica Park.

“On behalf of all of us with the Detroit Tigers, congratulations to Ron Gardenhire on a tremendous managerial career,” Tigers CEO Christopher Ilitch said in a statement. “One of the best baseball men around, we’re fortunate to have had Gardy lead our team for the past three seasons, and during this rebuilding period. He has done a great job in shaping the future successes I know our organization will see.”

Bench coach Lloyd McClendon is taking over as manager for the rest of the season, which is scheduled to end Sept. 27. Detroit was 21-29 heading into Saturday’s game and was unlikely to make the postseason.

Gardenhire previously had a 13-year run with the Minnesota Twins that included six AL Central titles.

“I’d like to congratulate Gardy on one of the best managerial careers, really in major league baseball history,” Avila said. “His leadership and hard work over the last three seasons has put us in a position to get closer to our goal of bringing back winning baseball to Detroit.”

Gardenhire had to oversee a significant rebuild with the Tigers that included a 114-loss season in 2019.

“He took us through the toughest two years of the transition. This year, this third season, probably as tough as any, just because of the pandemic,” Avila said. “The COVID-19 over your head, all the new changes … the stress level was through the roof.”

Gardenhire’s surprise retirement came as the Indians were getting ready to play their 38th game without their manager, Terry Francona, who has been sidelined after undergoing surgery for a gastrointestinal issue and some blood clotting complications which followed the procedure.

The 61-year-old Francona, who is in his eighth year with Cleveland, still hopes to return before this season ends.

Whoever takes over the Detroit managerial job will be tasked with guiding the team through an important stage in its process. Pitching prospects Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal had a chance to get some experience in the majors this year, and other young players will be crucial over the next couple seasons.

Gardenhire took over for longtime Twins manager Tom Kelly and managed Minnesota from 2002-14, going 1,068-1,039. Minnesota won the division six times in his first nine seasons at the helm, and he was American League Manager of the Year in 2010.

He was a bench coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks before returning to the AL Central with the Tigers for the 2018 season. Detroit was 132-241 under Gardenhire.

Gardenhire played five seasons in the majors, all with the New York Mets, and was a light-hitting infielder in the 1980s.

“Always, you’ll miss baseball,” Gardenhire said. “You miss the game, but you miss the people in it, the coaches, the staff here. Those are the tough things, but I’m only a phone call away. … I won’t just go away totally. This is just a moment, I know I have to take care of myself right now and get myself back to where I need to be.

“I appreciate baseball for everything they’ve given me and my family, and it’s been a good career.”