Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2007 | Jake Peavy’s Cy Young Award-enhancing performance Sunday to beat the San Francisco Giants 5-1 was everything a team in a race for a division title or wild-card playoff berth needed.

He struck out 10 batters, bumping his Major League lead to 225. He allowed only one run on four hits with one walk in 7 1/3 innings, lowering his Major League-leading ERA to 2.39.

He’s 18-6 in an All-Star season, leading the National League in wins and matching the best win total for a Padres pitcher since Kevin Brown in 1998 in the Padres’ World Series season. The win completed a sweep while matched against the Giants’ best pitcher, Tim Lincecum.

Peavy’s career-best 18th win kept the Padres two games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West standings and 1 1/2 games ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL wild-card race on a day both the Diamondbacks and Phillies won.

What could be better? Padres second baseman Marcus Giles had an idea as he stepped to the post-game lectern, mischievously grinning as he said he was substituting for manager Bud Black.

“The biggest disappointment was Josh Bard’s home run that put us up by four runs,” Giles said of the catcher’s solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning. “We didn’t get to hear Trevor’s song.”

Hoffman, the Padres closer, robbed of the 2006 Cy Young Award that went to Arizona’s Brandon Webb, only enters games in save situations of three-run leads or less. As any San Diegan knows by now, AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” blares from the public address system as Hoffman takes the mound.

“Marcus has said that two or three times,” said Black when he replaced Giles at the lectern for his routine post-game comments. “He’s said, ‘Buddy, this might be bad, but I’m glad we didn’t score in the eighth because I want to see Trevor.’”

The Padres could afford to indulge Giles’ mirth after Peavy completed a sweep of the Giants, a franchise that sold its soul to sell tickets with Barry Bonds hitting home runs.

The Padres don’t have to hold their breath when Peavy takes the mound in an important game. The dominance anticipated from him since he made his big-league debut in 2002 comes consistently this year rather than in flashes. He’s becomes a pitcher rather than a thrower. Less is more is the maturation of Peavy as a big-league pitcher.

“I thought it was similar to his last start,” Black said. “I thought the effort through the delivery was much more under control than at times during the season. He repeated the delivery; it was solid as far as repeating it without trying to do extra to get velocity on the fastball or trying to get the slider to break too much. He was pitching. He wasn’t overthrowing the fastball, wasn’t overthrowing the slider. He threw some changeups. Again, I thought early count strikes was another key to his success today.”

Peavy had won seven in a row before pitching on three days’ rest in a loss at Arizona on Sept. 5, but he’s bounced back with machine-like performances to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers and Giants. It’s the kind of season-closing performance that can put Peavy over the top in the NL Cy Young voting.

“It’s obviously the biggest award you can win as a pitcher,” Peavy said. “I would accept on behalf of this team that goes out there with me every fifth day. You can’t win without them.”

Peavy has two more scheduled starts, games that the Padres will no doubt need to win and decisions that could push him to the 20-win milestone. If the division race or wild-card berth come down to the final day of the regular season on Sept. 30 at the Milwaukee Brewers, Peavy said he’s willing to pitch on short rest.

“I’m going to give it my best effort,” Peavy said of 20 wins. “We need to win them all, and my next two are important. If I personally got the win, that would be great. But my team needs the win above that.”

In 22 of 30 Jake Peavy starts this year, his Padres got the win.

Tom Shanahan is voiceofsandiego.org‘s sports columnist. He is the media coordinator for the San Diego Hall of Champions. You can e-mail him at toms@sdhoc.com. Or send a letter to the editor.

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