SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants had eight scouts watch Jake Peavy as he toiled away for the last-place Boston Red Sox, and all came away with the same impression. Peavy, 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA in his time there, could be a back-of-the-rotation contributor down the stretch, a solid fill-in for injured workhorse Matt Cain.
It turns out all of those scouts were wrong. They undersold Peavy.
The fiery 33-year-old took a no-hitter into the eighth inning Saturday and happily settled for his third win in seven starts in orange and black, a 3-1 defeat of the first-place Milwaukee Brewers. Moments after the bullpen sealed the deal, the scoreboard showed the winning hit from San Diego's 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Giants are now just 2½ games back in the National League West, and they're ready for a fight to the finish.
"I want to win," Peavy said. "I was thrust into a position where we're fighting for our lives, and I'm excited to be here."
He's pitching like it. Peavy has turned back the clock and is throwing like an ace for a staff that all of a sudden has plenty of others doing the same. He has a 2.66 ERA in his seven Giants starts and has gone at least seven innings in five of them. Peavy had never thrown 61/3 hitless innings before doing it Aug. 2 in his second start after getting traded. In his 13th big league season, he now has reset that personal best twice in less than a month.
"You start with his stuff, and he was throwing the ball well (in Boston). His record was not indicative of how he threw the ball, but the stuff was there," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We knew, and I knew personally, how competitive he is. He's so intense. That was a no-brainer if we could get him."
Peavy said he feels comfortable in San Francisco, not just with Bochy, his former manager in San Diego, but with pitching coach Dave Righetti and the rest of the staff and bullpen support group. He's comfortable in the pitchers' corner of the clubhouse, too, saying he feeds off of Ryan Vogelsong, who pitches a day before Peavy with a similar style and repertoire.
Peavy long was one of the most-feared right-handers in the game, and he summoned that command and guile from the first pitch Saturday. He struck out three of the first four, becoming the fifth active pitcher to reach 2,000 strikeouts. Peavy said he didn't realize how close he was to the landmark until Tim Hudson hit it Wednesday. Likewise, he didn't quite get caught up in his bid for a no-hitter.
Peavy eyed the runs column, not the hits column, worried that the mashing Brewers were still within striking distance. But he kept setting them down, striking out six of the first nine and then working around a walk in the fourth.
Aramis Ramirez led off the fifth by smashing a ball deep into the hole at shortstop. Brandon Crawford has a sore shoulder that requires treatment before and after every game, but as he gloved the ball on the edge of the outfield grass, Crawford had enough strength to spin and fire a strike to first. He didn't realize at that time that Peavy still had not given up a hit, but he fully knew the stakes with one on and one out in the seventh.
The Giants led 3-0 thanks to Michael Morse's two-run double and Crawford's RBI single in the fourth, but Peavy had hit Ramirez with a pitch in the seventh and Scooter Gennett followed with a hard bouncer up the middle. Crawford dived headfirst to keep the ball on the infield. He doesn't like to flip balls out of his glove and remembers doing it only a couple times in his pro career, but the dive left him no choice. The ball went directly from leather to Joe Panik's glove, and the second baseman turned two.
"It was kind of instinct, because my throwing hand got caught underneath me," Crawford said. "That was the easiest way to get it to Joe."
As a sellout crowd roared, Peavy screamed and pumped his fist.
"The guy hit the ball well," he said. "By the time I had time to think, Craw caught it and we were all fist-pumping."
Pablo Sandoval went deep down the third-base line to get the first out of the eighth. But Peavy threw a fastball to Mark Reynolds that ran back over the plate, and the first baseman poked a broken-bat single into shallow right.
"It was fun," Peavy said. "It was fun while it lasted."
Peavy lasted one more hitter, getting his eighth strikeout. He watched the rest from the dugout, and celebrated with his teammates after a fifth straight win. The two over the Brewers gave the Giants a series victory over a winning team for the first time since May 29-June 1, when they took three of four from St. Louis.
Both the Brewers and Cardinals look headed for the postseason, and thanks to that trusty old formula of strong starting pitching and eye-popping defense, the Giants are again on the right track.
"It's why you play the game," Bochy said. "You hope to be in this situation at this time of year."
Milwaukee (Kyle Lohse 12-7)
at Giants (Madison Bumgarner 15-9), 1:05 p.m. CSNBA
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