WASHINGTON (AP) — Put Jake Peavy on the San Francisco Giants, and he suddenly turns into quite a postseason performer.
Same for a couple of rookies, Hunter Strickland and Joe Panik.
Seems that October aura manager Bruce Bochy has cultivated with the Giants rubs off on anyone joining the club.
The intense Peavy took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, Strickland and the rest of San Francisco’s rested bullpen barely protected a lead, and the wild-card Giants won their league-record ninth consecutive postseason game by beating Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals 3-2 on Friday in an NL Division Series opener.
“Nobody is scared of the moment,” said Peavy, who won the 2007 NL Cy Young Award with San Diego and last year’s World Series with Boston, but was 0-3 with a 9.27 ERA in five previous starts beyond the regular season. “We understand that we might not be, man for man, the favorites.”
Perhaps they should be.
Peavy, the 33-year-old right-hander with the tattoo sleeve on his left arm, finally earned his first postseason win, allowing only two hits in 5 2-3 scoreless innings, and getting plenty of help.
Strickland spent much of the season at High-A and Double-A in the minors, and has all of seven major league innings on his resume, but struck out Ian Desmond swinging at a 100 mph fastball with the bases loaded in the sixth after Peavy left, cussing up a storm.
Panik provided a nice defensive play at second base to end the seventh and contributed one of San Francisco’s three RBI singles.
No swinging from the heels for this bunch. No costly misplays in the field, either, such as the passed ball by Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos that led to an unearned run. That was one of a couple examples of jumpy play by a Washington team that won its division and led the NL with 96 wins but has never won a postseason series.
Under Bochy, the Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012. They have not lost a postseason game since trailing 3-1 against St. Louis in the NLCS two years ago.
When the lights are brightest, the stage biggest, the stakes highest, San Francisco comes through.
“We’ve done it so many times now, it seems to be part of our DNA,” said Hunter Pence, who stole a base in the fourth and came home on Brandon Belt’s hit off Strasburg. “But I think the thing that we know is: What’s in the past is in the past, and we’ve got to move forward and we’ve got to be ready for the game tomorrow. Because if not, they’ll jump all over us.”
Game 2 is Saturday, with Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann — who threw a no-hitter in the regular-season finale — facing Tim Hudson.
Strasburg took the loss in his playoff debut; he was shut down in 2012 to protect his surgically repaired elbow. He showed up with his best material Friday, reaching 99 mph.
“He gave us a chance,” manager Matt Williams said. “Jake was a little bit better.”
The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2009 lasted five-plus innings, allowing eight hits — all singles, all to center or right field — and two runs, one earned. He tied for the NL lead this season with a career-high 242 strikeouts, but only managed two, in part because the Giants rarely missed.
“Wasn’t like they were hitting me all around the yard,” Strasburg said. “Hit it where we weren’t.”
Peavy didn’t top 92 mph, but that didn’t matter. He put pitches where he wanted, often barely over the black edge of the plate.
“He mixed really well. He’s a very smart pitcher,” said catcher Buster Posey, the 2012 NL MVP, who drove in a run. “He knows when not to give in.”
The first hit Peavy allowed was by Bryce Harper in the fifth, a bouncing single off the glove of diving first baseman Belt. As Harper ran through the bag, he yelled, “Let’s go!” But any notion of a rally was quickly silenced when Peavy got Ramos to ground into a first-pitch, 4-6-3 double play, followed by Asdrubal Cabrera’s inning-ending foul pop.
Peavy was lifted with two runners aboard in the sixth, and Javier Lopez loaded the bases with a walk. Bochy turned to Strickland, who, calm as a 10-year veteran, took care of Desmond — 8 for 12 with a grand slam and 17 RBIs with the bases full this season — on four fastballs, the slowest at 98 mph.
“He just stepped into as big a fire as you can step into,” Pence said about Strickland, “and he came up huge.”
But in the seventh, Strickland served up a pair of 97 mph fastballs that were turned into homers, one by Harper into the third deck, the other by Cabrera, making it 3-2.
Bochy knew his relievers were rested after Madison Bumgarner’s four-hit shutout in the wild-card victory at Pittsburgh on Wednesday — a day the Nationals played an intrasquad scrimmage to fight rust.
Jeremy Affeldt got the last out in the seventh. Sergio Romo struck out Desmond and got Harper on a grounder to end a threat in the eighth. And Santiago Casilla pitched a perfect ninth for the save.
“These guys, they have been through it. They have a calmness about them,” Bochy said about his bunch. “When you have your back as many times against the wall as you can in the postseason, that experience is invaluable.”
RHP Hudson is 18-5 with a 2.35 ERA in his career against Washington. Only RF Jayson Werth has a good track record: .386, four homers, 12 RBIs. Pence is 8 for 20 with two homers against Zimmermann.