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.