Blanco, Peavy team up to beat Giants
Catcher homers twice; right-hander strikes out 10
SAN DIEGO -- If you didn't know better, you might think Jake Peavy and Henry Blanco spent those seven weeks of Spring Training in Arizona attached at the hip, finishing each other's sentences as they got acquainted with one another.
To see how well these two work together, how well they communicate and how they go about executing a game plan, as they efficiently did in the Padres' 6-3 victory over the Giants at PETCO Park on Saturday, you would never guess this pair were essentially strangers this spring.
With Blanco calling the shots and Peavy obliging with pitches they discussed before the game, the 2007 National League Cy Young Award winner came within two outs of a complete-game win, settling for a 10-strikeout effort in getting his first victory of the season.
"Jake threw the ball great. He was efficient all night and didn't look like he was taxed at any one time," Padres manager Bud Black said of Peavy, who threw 104 pitches in 8 1/3 innings. "The difference was what he did with his slider."
Maybe, but in the words of Peavy, the difference might have been Blanco, a 37-year-old who signed with the Padres in the offseason to serve as the backup catcher and mentor to the other catcher on the roster, Nick Hundley.
Apparently, Blanco has more to give than that. For starters, he hit two home runs against the Giants (2-3) and threw in a single for good measure. Better still was the way that he continued to build his promising relationship with Peavy.
It was in the offseason when former Padres pitcher Greg Maddux told Peavy that Blanco was someone worth working with, someone worth listening to. On the recommendation of a future Hall of Famer, Peavy gladly obliged.
The only problem was Peavy spent part of the spring playing for the United States in the World Baseball Classic while Blanco did the same for Venezuela. They reunited for the final two weeks of camp, Peavy's final two starts in Arizona and his first two starts this season for the Padres (4-2).
"I think communication is the big thing. I spent a lot of time talking about what I do to be successful. He's as good as anyone I've been with talking about before the game and going out and executing," Peavy said of Blanco. "... We really do follow pitch-by-pitch what we want to do."
That hasn't always happened in Peavy's career in San Diego. He wouldn't name names but said it's not uncommon for a pitcher and catcher to sit down before a game and map out how they want to pitch certain hitters.
And when the game starts?
"You wonder if that guy had cotton in his ears the whole time," Peavy said.
Black, a former pitcher himself who certainly understands the pitcher-catcher dynamic, likes the chemistry between Peavy and Blanco. And while refusing to say that Blanco will be, essentially, Peavy's personal catcher, there's no reason to think this relationship won't continue Thursday in New York when Peavy starts against the Mets.
"Those last two games in spring, I thought they worked well together," Black said. "[That relationship] starts pregame. Both guys are in sync. You saw it develop early. Henry is getting to know Jake. The pitching selection is working."
Peavy, who didn't walk a single batter, retired the first nine hitters he faced and allowed one run in the fourth inning. He then retired six of the next seven batters he faced as his slider, a pitch that betrayed him at times on Opening Day, hard much more bite to it.
"He was outstanding and he was aggressive," Blanco said. His breaking stuff was good."
Peavy (1-1) wanted the complete-game victory bad, he said, but left the game with one out in the ninth inning after allowing doubles to Randy Winn and Fred Lewis. He left to an ovation from the crowd of 35,305, tipping his hat briefly before Heath Bell finished up for his third save.
"I didn't have great stuff tonight," said Peavy, who has two walks in 15 1/3 innings this season. "It wasn't a crazy-special night."
It was for Blanco, who connected on two home runs to left field, the second a solo blast that landed in the upper deck. It wasn't a bad night for Adrian Gonzalez, who before the game received his Gold Glove Award for 2008.
It was Gonzalez who helped chase Giants pitcher Jonathan Sanchez (0-1) when he hit a two-out, three-run double to left-center field to turn a 2-1 lead into a 5-1 advantage. The Padres got their final run in the sixth inning on a home run by Chase Headley.
"Sanchez came out blazing," Black said of the Giants left-hander, who struck out five of the first six hitters he faced. "Henry got a hold of a couple and Adrian ... that was the hit of the game."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.