AT&T PARK — As Jake Peavy walked off the mound with two outs in the seventh, the veteran starter was greeted by an unfamiliar sound: applause.
The owner of a 7.26 ERA, the only noise Peavy’s heard throughout much of the opening quarter of the season has been calls for his head.
“It doesn’t bother me,” the 15-year vet said, explaining that his stops in San Diego, Chicago and Boston have taught him to weather the highs and lows of life in the big leagues. “I certainly understand the frustration.”
As he headed back to the dugout with the cheers raining down, Peavy offered only a small wave to the crowd.
With the San Francisco Giants clinging to a 2-1 advantage, it was no time for a full-on celebration. That would have to wait until the tenth when Brandon Crawford smashed a Brad Hand curveball to center field to walk the Giants off as 4-3 winners.
“It doesn’t get better than a two-out, two-strike game winner,” manager Bruce Bochy said after his club won for the 13th time in 14 games and improved its May record — already the best in baseball — to 18-6.
Peavy remains winless dating back to April 23, but for the second time in three trips to the mound the right-hander looked like an actual major league starter.
“A lot of times the harder you try in life, [the worse it goes],” Peavy reasoned afterward. “Sometimes less is more. I’m finding that happy balance. Today was a good day.”
It didn’t hurt that Peavy was facing a dismal Padres team, which is tied for third-fewest runs in baseball and has now lost nine in a row to the Giants after getting swept out of AT&T Park.
In his 6.2 innings of work, Peavy scattered six hits and a walk, as he continues to allow an alarming number of base runners. In 10 starts, Peavy has allowed 86 batters to reach base in 48.1 innings of work.
A lot of those batters have been hitting the ball with authority. Like in the first, when Melvin Upton stung a single to left field. Peavy would have been in trouble if not for Kelby Tomlinson, who uncorked a strike to the plate to cut down Yangervis Solarte with ease.
“He put it right on the money,” Bochy said.
The novice outfielder even impressed himself with the dart.
“I came up trying to make a good strong throw and didn’t really expect to make that good of a throw,” Tomlinson admitted. “But fortunately for us, it went right there to him and got him in time.”
After going 2-for-4 against San Diego, Tomlinson raised his average to .486 (17-for-35) in the last 15 games and to .344 on the season.
The 25-year-old has emerged as Bochy’s go-to super-sub and at just the right moment — as Angel Pagan is on the disabled list, Hunter Pence is nursing a hamstring injury and Brandon Belt sprained his left ankle in the eighth.
“The guys on the bench are so valuable — especially a guy like him. He can play multiple positions and he does a good job there,” Bochy said. “But he also has a bat. A base-hit bat and he showed that today.”