“That’s about as tough as it could get,” Peacock said. “The adrenaline was definitely going then.”
Johnson drew some heat for the decision, which preceded the unraveling of the inning and led to a 7-3 Nationals loss. He had planned not to bring Peacock in the middle of an inning, let alone with two runners on base to face Matt Kemp. So why did he? The reason, like so much from last night, stemmed from the weather. Here’s Johnson’s unabridged explanation:
“The weather report came to me in about the fourth inning that it was going to, in about 15 minutes, [rain] was moving in,” Johnson said. “I wanted to warm [Peacock] up earlier. I didn’t know Stras was going to go five easy. I would have started warming him when Stras was out there, but I didn’t want to have him warm up, and then the rain came. So, I went to Plan B. I’ll warm him up with Slaten. That way, I can let him get his full warm up, like a pitcher, not rushed. Unfortunately, I had to bring him in to face the right-hander, and it happened to be one of the best hitters in the league.”
Fans may have not have been comfortable with the move, but Peacock was. He had been told he might enter in the middle of the inning, and he felt perfectly ready to make his major league debut in that way.
“I relieved out in the Fall League, and I did pretty well,” Peacock said. “So I’m used to it. That’s a situation I’ve been in before. They just got some hits.”
Peacock said the situation was “nerve-wracking,” but he controlled his emotions enough to very nearly save the game. His first pitch to Kemp was nasty, a 95-mph fastball that darted over the outside corner. “I probably just cut it a little or something,” Peacock said, laughing. “I definitely didn’t mean to do that. I honestly didn’t.”
Later in the at-bat, Kemp ripped a groundball to short. The ball took a high hop and scooted past Ian Desmond, who fielded the ball slightly off to his side. It could have been a double play, but instead one run scored and the rally continued.
“I thought Desi should have got in front of it, and we would have been out of the inning,” Johnson said. “But it’s a hard-hit ball.”
Peacock allowed a walk two more hits, both singles that zipped through the infield. “I made some good pitches, got some groundballs,” Peacock said. “They found some holes. That’s baseball.”
He eventually escaped with a double play ball from Rod Barajas, but the game had been tied. Peacock also pitched the first two outs of the seventh inning before rain delayed the game. Once the game resumed, left-hander Atahualpa Severino made an impressive major league debut, striking out James Loney on an 83-mph slider to end an eight pitch at-bat. Severino, despite his small frame, touched 96 with his fastball. He’ll be worth watching this month.
So, too, will Peacock. And surely, the next time he pitches, he will not begin in such difficult and unusual circumstances.