Mike Leake Saves His Best for Last Start of the Season


When the San Fransisco Giants acquired Mike Leake from the Cincinnati Reds on July 31st, they were supposed to be getting a pitcher who could back up Madison Bumgarner in the rotation, and push them into a playoff run. Things don’t quite work out as planned, as an injury and inconsistencies prevented Leake from truly showcasing himself. He entered his last start of the season with a 4.86 ERA and 1.317 WHIP since the trade, with the Giants having lost six of his eight starts. But in the first game post-elimination, Leake was as good as he had ever been.

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Leake baffled the Los Angeles Dodgers’ lineup, as he went the distance for the fourth time in his career, and completed his first Major League shutout. He wasn’t overpowering, as is his norm, striking out only one batter over nine innings, but he kept hitter after hitter off-balance, accumulating 18 outs via the groundball, including two double plays, one of which ended the game.

Leake allowed just two hits over nine innings, a one-out single in the fourth inning and a leadoff single in the ninth. He did allow three walks as well, but they wouldn’t hurt him. His lone strikeout came in a big spot in the fifth inning. With Adrian Gonzalez pinch-hitting and a runner on third with two outs, Leake threw a full-count, 92-mile per hour fastball above the belt, getting Gonzalez to wave through the pitch and end the biggest jam he faced.

Despite not having much to play for, except pride and to beat the archrivals as many times as possible, the Giants, and Leake, came out with a vengeance on Wednesday. The offense backed up Leake, something that they haven’t done all that much this year, as Matt Duffy hit a two-run home run in the first inning, Kelby Tomlinson hit a run-scoring double in the third, Nick Noonan hit his first career home run in the seventh, and Jarrett Parker drove in a run with a basehit in the eighth.

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With free agency on the horizon, the impending free agent Leake fired, not just the best start of his season, but the best of his career. Whether or not it was his final start as a Giant remains to be seen.

Despite the struggles Leake has experienced with the Giants, the team and manager Bruce Bochy remain very high on him. After his masterful performance on Wednesday, Bochy reiterated that “we think a lot of him. That’s why we acquired him.” With Leake due to get a fairly sizable contract this coming offseason, the Giants have a lot of money coming off the books. They’ll need to throw some of it in Leake’s direction.

Leake has expressed his desire to possibly stay in San Francisco. When asked after the game, Leake said there is a “strong possibility” that he remains in orange and black for the foreseeable future. He also mentioned that he wants to get a deal done quickly, and possibly sign a deal before he hits the open market. “I’d rather not wait. I’d like to pick a team and get ready with that team.”

The Giants’ most glaring need entering the offseason is in their starting rotation. Getting Leake to return to the Giants would be a nice start towards rebuilding what was the foundation to their first two World Series runs. They have the offense to put up some runs on a nightly bases (or will, once everyone is fully healthy again), but the pitching has to be able to support them.

Even if Leake doesn’t return to the Giants, he will have gone out on an extremely high note. The quickest way to make a Giants’ fan like a player is to shut out the Dodgers. Leake has that under his belt.

Next: Giants: Five Positives Moving Forward