Peavy stymies Marlins in brilliant outing

Peavy dominant as Padres sink Marlins

MIAMI -- When the Padres signed Greg Maddux to a one-year, $10 million contract in December, they did so to bolster their starting rotation, not because they were seeking a clubhouse tutor.

And while Maddux's returns on the mound to date have been, well, rather ordinary for a future Hall of Famer, the advice that he's imparted to other pitchers has been invaluable.

In that sense, Jake Peavy might well be Maddux's biggest pupil, as the young right-hander has taken lessons learned from the veteran in Spring Training and applied them to his first seven starts of the regular season.

Consider the returns very good.

On a sun-splashed day in South Florida -- where the temperature at game time was 86 -- Peavy made the Marlins sweat with a bevy of well-placed sliders and fastballs that turned his 106-pitch effort into a relative breeze and a 3-1 Padres victory at Dolphin Stadium.

Peavy (4-1) carried a no-hitter into the sixth, before allowing a one-out RBI triple to Dan Uggla. But that was the only hit Peavy allowed in seven innings that saw him reach back for something extra -- a nod to a lesson learned from Maddux -- in that sixth, when he was presented his only tight spot of the day.

"I thought that Jake -- once again -- threw the ball extremely well," said Padres manager Bud Black, who felt that Peavy's outing Sunday was every bit as dominating as his 16-strikeout game against Arizona on April 25. "He had their hitters baffled. It was pitching at its finest."

Peavy lowered his ERA to 1.75 and struck out 10, making him only the third pitcher in franchise history to get 10 or more strikeouts in three consecutive games. Those are nice numbers, but what left general manager Kevin Towers so impressed was how Peavy was able to dominate without really trying.

And that might be the biggest influence that Maddux has had on Peavy, who said that in the past he would essentially go guns-a-blazing from the outset of the game with little to no regard for how that might play out later in a game. Pitch efficiency? What was that?

"His command is outstanding, he was ahead in the count and didn't allow their hitters to get into too many hitters counts," Towers said. "He has become efficient. He is getting strikeouts without trying to get strikeouts."

It was over dinner in Spring Training when Maddux and Peavy got to talking about, no surprise here, pitching. Maddux talked about being efficient and locating pitches. That doesn't mean not being aggressive, something Peavy takes pride in. It just means going about your business a little smarter.

"Why would you overthrow if you didn't have to?" Peavy asked to no one in particular.

That Peavy still had something left in the sixth inning was a testament to not only the lessons he's learned from Maddux but, perhaps, his maturation. Peavy's stuff might be as electric as it was the year he won the National League ERA title (2.27 in 2004), though he's been sharper later in games than he's likely ever been.

In the sixth, with the Padres holding a 2-0 lead, Peavy -- who to that point had six strikeouts and two walks -- got pitcher Scott Olsen to fly out to begin the inning. The leadoff hitter, Hanley Ramirez, then reached on Kevin Kouzmanoff's error. Peavy's no-hit bid and shutout ended when Uggla lined an RBI triple to center field, a ball that was just out of Mike Cameron's reach.

"I thought I was going to get that," Cameron said.

With the tying run on third and Peavy inching closer to 100 pitches, he reached back for something extra -- something that might not have been there had he used all of his bullets earlier in the game.

Facing Marlins All-Star third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who to that point had struck out twice, Peavy dialed up two fastballs that just missed. Then Peavy came back with a 2-0 slider that made Cabrera's knees buckle, as he was certainly looking for a fastball to drive.

Then came two more fastballs on the outside corner that Cabrera couldn't lay off and couldn't reach, the last being a 94-mph bullet that settled into catcher Rob Bowen's glove.

"With a runner on third, he was able to switch to another gear," Towers said. "You could tell that he dialed it up a little more right there."

Peavy then struck out Mike Jacobs, also for the third time, to end the sixth inning and the threat.

"You saw him elevate his game when we had man on third base and we had Cabrera and Jacobs [batting]. The good ones do that," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He was outstanding. You've got to tip your hat to him."

The Padres (17-14) backed Peavy with just enough runs to make him a winner for the fourth time in seven starts, as Jose Cruz Jr. drilled an RBI double into the left-field corner in the first inning. Another run scored when Olsen uncorked a wild pitch in the fourth. Finally, the Padres got an insurance run in the ninth inning on Terrmel Sledge's RBI double.

That proved to be more offense than Peavy needed, though he wasn't about to turn down run support. That said, he certainly didn't need much on Sunday. He left the game having thrown 106 pitches, letting Cla Meredith get three outs in the eighth and Trevor Hoffman three in the ninth for his eighth save.

Peavy might well have been able to go another inning but instead, he left content. He left a winner and, probably down the road, he'll owe Maddux a dinner.

"Location is everything; you can go out there with great stuff and if you don't locate, you are going to get hit," Peavy said. "I still have to be aggressive and my self. But I'm never going to lose the fact that I need to locate. It's OK to throw a ball as hard as you can ... as long as you locate it."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.