SAN DIEGO — Jake McGee is the closer, even if the Giants won’t use the label. Tyler Rogers is trusted, even if the contact he allows makes him a riskier choice. Matt Wisler and Jose Alvarez were given major league deals to shore up the bullpen, even if they haven’t thus far.
The returning Wandy Peralta is just steady, and steady is exactly what the Giants have needed.
After the Opening Day meltdown, in which no reliever could find the strike zone and a 6-1 eighth-inning lead became a loss, it was Peralta who was the first reliever called upon in the second game. The lefty calmly threw 1 1/3 perfect innings and the Giants could exhale.
The feel was similar Wednesday, after Rogers had surrendered a game-tying, eighth-inning bomb to Wil Myers. So much goodwill was at risk ahead of the home opener. McGee, who pitched a clean ninth, could not pitch every inning.
So in came Peralta with a one-run lead in the 10th, with a ghost-runner on second. He had never recorded a save in his six-year, 212-game major league career.
“I thought what stood out to me most was how composed he was in that inning,” Gabe Kapler said after the 3-2 victory.
Peralta, just throwing a slider and fastball, was shutdown. Ha-Seong Kim grounded to Brandon Belt, who was pretty far off from first base. It became a footrace between Kim and Peralta that the pitcher won.
“That’s important, too — it’s not something that I’ve thought about, I just kind of took it for granted,” the manager said of Peralta’s hustle play. “He did make a nice sprint to first base. In the biggest moments of the game, you have to execute the little things, whether that’s covering the base or executing an inside move, and then still being able to execute your pitches.”
The play moved Jurickson Profar to third and set up the at-bat of the afternoon.
Facing Jorge Mateo, Peralta got ahead with a slider before missing inside with a fastball. He turned back to a pair of sweeping, backdoor sliders that got two swings and misses from the young Mateo, and the energy was sapped from Petco Park. A batter later, Tucupita Marcano flew out to left off a 95-mph fastball, and Peralta and the Giants could exhale yet again.
Kapler made sure to call out Peralta’s work with Profar on base, throwing over a few times and keeping an eye there while staying focused on the batter at the plate.
“It’s a pretty gutsy performance,” Kapler said of Peralta, who was not available after the game because the Giants had to catch their bus.
— SFGiants (@SFGiants) April 8, 2021
Kevin Gausman thought his best pitch was his last one.
His 96th and final pitch looked like a fastball to Mateo, who started his swing and learned it was another splitter. It disappeared yet again and was found in Curt Casali’s glove, Gausman walking off the mound after seven strong, one-run inning.
Padres batters swung at his splitter 15 times and missed nine. Even the hard contact that emerged was not costly — Luis Campusano hit one solidly but south, resulting in a ground out.
“That’s such a big pitch for me, and it plays so well off my fastball,” Gausman said over Zoom. “I throw it against righties and lefties. I always feel like when that pitch is going good, I can face anybody.”
Darin Ruf didn’t have the best view of what happened after he hit it — he was rounding first base — but he felt for Mateo, who tried to catch Ruf’s long drive to center and watched it bounce off his glove and wind up over the fence.
That happens. Hitters getting quality swings off Blake Snell is also a thing that happens apparently.
“He’s a great pitcher. Four plus pitches that he can throw at any point,” Ruf said after taking the southpaw deep on the second fastball he saw. “After the first fastball, my eyes were kind of looking for that I guess. Luckily he threw it again, kind of middle and middle up a little bit, and I was able to pull my hands inside and get the barrel to it.”