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Early in Matt Cain’s career, when he’d get shaded 2-1 or 3-2, it often was Jake Peavy who found a way to pitch just a little bit better.
Cain once told me that all those close losses to pitchers like Peavy are what motivated him to become a better pitcher. He’d go home for the winter and ask himself, “What were they doing that I didn’t? How can I step up my game? How can I take control of that extra variable?”
It is not just a question for the young.
Now Peavy is in the Giants rotation. He took the place of Cain, who almost certainly is headed for season-ending surgery to clean out his right elbow.
He is taking Cain’s place in more ways than one.
Peavy entered the seventh inning Saturday night with a perfect game. He exited it trailing 4-0. And if I did the math right as I watched the game on television from our studios here in San Francisco, Peavy is 0-11 over his last 17 starts following the Giants’ 4-2 loss to the New York Mets at Citi Field.
He didn’t even get credit for a quality start.
Left fielder Michael Morse took a check step in, and makeup speed is something he does not possess. Daniel Murphy ended up with a one-out double as a result, and Peavy ended up losing far more than that by the time he was able to walk off the mound.
Another blooper fell in front of Morse, then came a hit batter and a sacrifice fly, a good pitch on the outer edge that Juan Lagares snuck through the left side, and with Peavy cursing himself on the mound, Wilmer Flores yanked a two-run double.
It was a game of tight and tremendous defensive plays on both sides – Hunter Pence and Brandon Crawford for the Giants, Lagares and Eric Young Jr. for the Mets – but they say in baseball it’s only a matter of time before your weakest spot is exposed. For the Giants, it was their lumbering left fielder.
The Giants had their own no-hitter to bust up, which they finally did in the top of the seventh when Pablo Sandoval picked a pitch off the plate from impressive rookie Jacob deGrom. They managed a couple runs on Travis Ishikawa’s first hit as a Giant since the 2010 World Series. But it wasn’t enough.
In case you were wondering, the Braves and Brewers also had a game in April in which both pitchers guided no-hitters through six innings. Both Aaron Harang and Matt Garza lost their bids in the seventh, too.
But neither of those guys were joining a team in a pennant race, pitching again for the manager who was once your father figure in the game, and dragging 16 winless starts behind him.
Now it’s 17. And if you’re looking for positives, aside from Brandon Belt’s 2-for-3 performance (nearly 3 for 3 if not for Lagares’ leaping catch) in his first game off the DL, it’s that Peavy didn’t punch any hard objects with his pitching hand after coming off the mound.
It’s hard to imagine Peavy pitching any better, stepping up his game any more. And the makeup speed of his left fielder is definitely a variable out of his control.