WASHINGTON -- While Giants right-hander Jake Peavy pitched before a sellout crowd Friday night at Nationals Park, his true audience consisted of teammates, manager Bruce Bochy, San Francisco's coaching staff and wherever club officials were gathered.
Peavy believed he had to prove to everybody associated with the Giants that he remained capable of winning for them, particularly since a strained back sidelined him after his initial pair of starts this season. Peavy absorbed the decision in the Giants' 2-1 loss to the Washington Nationals, but performed well enough to indicate he can bolster the starting rotation during the season's second half, which happens to begin Saturday with game No. 82.
"There's a lot to build on," Peavy said. "It's nice to show everybody in this room, and the Giants, that I'm healthy. ... I expect to win, though. I wouldn't be here if I didn't expect to win."
History shows a healthy Peavy is a winning Peavy. He indeed thrived in the opener of a three-game series against the National League East leaders, blanking them on two hits for six innings until Clint Robinson yanked a two-run homer over the right-field barrier. That rude interruption didn't diminish the Giants' estimation of Peavy, who entered Spring Training projected to be San Francisco's No. 3 starter. The meager total of three hits he allowed in 6 1/3 innings cemented their confidence in him.
"He was terrific," Bochy said. "It's hard to pitch better than he did, with the one mistake."
"There wasn't a lot of solid contact off him," said Peavy's catcher, Andrew Susac, who noted that one of Washington's hits, Yunel Escobar's first-inning ground-rule double, was a weak bloop. "I think we all have good faith in Peav."
After Escobar's hit, Peavy retired 16 of 18 batters. Then he began the seventh inning by walking Bryce Harper, perhaps the NL's most formidable hitter, for the third time in a row. However, Peavy wasn't simply skirting Harper in their final confrontation. Ball four was a back-door cutter that appeared to tickle the strike zone.
"I've gotten that call plenty of times before. It was considered a strike most of the day," Peavy said. "You can't beg, but it's a game of inches. We saw that."
Robinson homered three pitches later, nullifying Buster Posey's homer in the Giants' half of the inning. Robinson's long ball hastened San Francisco's fourth consecutive loss, the last three of which have been decided by a late-inning homer.