After solid start in ALDS clincher, righty excited to pitch on another big stage
DETROIT -- When right-hander Jake Peavy was traded to the Red Sox in July, it was a moment like this that he was waiting for the most.
Peavy is set to take the mound in a crucial Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against Detroit on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, FOX) at Comerica Park. He has a chance to put Boston in the driver's seat by securing a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
It's an opportunity that has been almost seven years in the making. That was how long it took for Peavy to get back into the postseason, and while the drought officially ended in the American League Division Series, this next chapter should prove to be an even more daunting challenge.
"That was the exciting part about getting traded," Peavy said of pitching in October. "It was obviously hard to leave a place I loved and had so many friendships and relationships in Chicago [with the White Sox].
"But when you get traded, you know you're going to a contender and this is what, as a competitor, as a baseball player, playing at the highest level, you dream of being able to do, pitch in games that mean the world to your teammates, to yourself, to your coaching staff and your fan base."
Peavy was acquired from the White Sox as part of a three-way trade before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. It was a rather unique situation considering the deal also involved Detroit and had a major impact on two organizations that would end up competing against each other in the ALCS.
The cost of doing business for Boston was parting with promising infielder Jose Iglesias, who played a key role for the Tigers during the absence of Jhonny Peralta. Iglesias once was considered the shortstop of the future for Boston, but when the Red Sox were presented with an opportunity to upgrade the rotation, they pounced.
Peavy helped solidify the back end of Boston's staff down the stretch and made his biggest impact with 5 2/3 strong innings in the clinching game of the ALDS vs. Tampa Bay. Considering the impact Peavy has made, the loss of Iglesias became a whole lot easier to take.
"You have to give up a quality player to get a quality player in return," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "But having been around Iggy when he first signed here a number of years ago and see how he's matured and the way he played for us, it was hard to see him go. You don't see that kind of defender come along very often. He's a magician with the glove.
"It was hard to see him go, but in return we knew we needed another quality starter, and we got that in Jake. And for him to cap off our divisional series with him on the mound, like I said, it was a very good baseball trade for all teams involved."
Key stat: He's held right-handed hitters to a .659 OPS.
Key stat: He has allowed just five homers over 396 at-bats at Comerica Park this season.
At Comerica Park
2013: 0 G Career: 5 GS, 1-3, 4.15 ERA
2013: 15 GS, 8-5, 3.55 ERA Career: 35 GS, 18-10, 3.18 ERA
Against this opponent
2013: 1 GS, 1-0, 5.14 ERA Career: 12 GS, 4-5, 4.83 ERA
2013: 2 GS, 1-1, 5.23 ERA Career: 8 GS, 2-4, 4.36 ERA
Loves to face: Jhonny Peralta, 7-for-34, .626 OPS Hates to face: Torii Hunter, 7-for-16, 1.283 OPS
Loves to face: Mike Napoli, 2-for-14, .393 OPS Hates to face: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 5-for-11, 1.364 OPS
Why he'll win: He has gotten comfortable with new arm slot over the last month.
Why he'll win: He keeps the ball in the park.
Pitcher beware: Miguel Cabrera has taken him deep three times in 45 at-bats.
Pitcher beware: He has just 15 strikeouts to 11 walks in his career against current Red Sox hitters.
Bottom line: Peavy was efficient against the Rays in the ALDS and strike-throwing will be again be key.
Bottom line: Fister will need to pitch carefully against hitters that have batted .304 off him lifetime.
Peavy is using this opportunity to shed his reputation of being a non-performer in October. Before joining the Red Sox, Peavy had just two postseason appearances under his belt and both ended in major disappointment.
The former Padres ace made two starts in the National League Division Series in 2005 and '06 against the Cardinals. He lasted a total of 9 2/3 innings while surrendering 19 hits and 13 earned runs. That led to an 0-2 record with a 12.10 ERA, but the recent outing against the Rays has helped silence the critics.
Peavy took a no-decision in that outing, but kept his team in the game by allowing just one earned run on five hits and coming within one out of a quality start. The next challenge won't be an easy one, but Peavy has a lot of experience against the Tigers from his days in the AL Central, so he knows what to expect.
"I do know those guys well," said Peavy, who is 4-5 with a 4.83 ERA in 12 career starts against Detroit. "We had a lot of matchups, some of them went well, some of them didn't go so well. That's all out the window. All I heard was the playoff starts, all of that stuff is out the window. It comes down to [Wednesday] night, executing the game plan that we think we're going to go with and get those guys out. It's a huge challenge with the way they swing the bat."
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Peavy's first outing of this postseason was how effective he was despite having gone 12 days between appearances. The 32-year-old tried to stay sharp between outings by throwing in a simulated game and doing extensive work in the bullpen.
It was a less than ideal situation, but one that ultimately paid off. This time he will be making the start on seven days' rest, so it's a little easier to take. No matter what happens, he won't be using the irregular schedule as an excuse.
"You like to pitch every five days, we're creatures of habit and we like to do that," Peavy said. "You're used to keeping your craft sharp by [staying] out there and being able to throw your bullpens on certain days. You make adjustments and you just get on the mound when you feel like you need to, when you feel like you're losing a little bit.
"But the other night I think showed that that's kind of reeled in and I do feel comfortable. There will be no excuses [Wednesday] night for not being sharp. And I don't think that's going to be the case."