BOSTON -- The thrill isn't gone for Jake Peavy. It's only been nervously heightened as the World Series reaches an inevitable conclusion this week at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox have a chance to wrap up their third World Series title in 10 years by defeating the Cardinals in Game 6 on Wednesday night, airing live on FOX at 7:30 p.m. ET with first pitch at 8:07 p.m. If not, Game 7 is slated for Thursday, and Peavy is tentatively scheduled to start for Boston.
If the Red Sox win the penultimate game, Peavy will party with the rest of his mates on Fenway turf like it's 1918, the last time Boston won the World Series at home. If not, the veteran right-hander will have to take the Red Sox where no team in club history has tread since 1912: to a seven-game win in a World Series.
"To be in this situation, what more could you ask for?" Peavy said in the dugout on Monday before Boston took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series with a 3-1 win at Busch Stadium. "I'm taking it all in. I'm game planning, learning from what happened [in Game 3] the other night. I'll have my spikes on Wednesday and be all in. But I'll certainly be ready for Game 7."
The scenario has an eerie similarity to another instance early in Peavy's 12-year career when he was a young starter at the top of the Padres' rotation.
It was a 2006 National League Division Series against these same Cards. Peavy lost Game 1 at Petco Park and the Padres trailed, 2-1, in the best-of-five series heading into Game 4 at a then newly-opened Busch Stadium. Like this current series in which Peavy started Game 3, he had to wait around for another start in what could have been the series finale back at home.
But seven years ago, Peavy had control over his own destiny. General manager Kevin Towers wanted Peavy to pitch Game 4, even though then manager Bruce Bochy had already assigned it to Woody Williams.
The decision led to a confrontation between Towers and Bochy that ended with a closed-door meeting that included Peavy, who demurred, saying he needed the extra days off because of a tender right shoulder. He'd be ready for Game 5, if needed.
Game 4 turned out to be the last together for the trio as Bochy left for the Giants just after that postseason. Bud Black replaced Bochy, and Peavy had the best season of his career in 2007, winning the NL Cy Young Award and the pitching Triple Crown.
In recalling the decision-making process years ago, Towers, now GM of the D-backs, said he was adamant that Bochy bump Williams for Peavy. Bochy declined, saying it wasn't fair to Williams and that Peavy was nursing the shoulder. Bochy recalled suggesting the meeting in his office at Busch Stadium, telling Towers to ask Peavy if he'd rather pitch Game 4 or 5.
When the question was posed and Peavy answered exactly the way his manager expected, only then did Towers back down. The GM later rued not pushing the point after Williams imploded during a four-run sixth inning for St. Louis, as San Diego lost Game 4, 6-2, and the series. Peavy, of course, never pitched again that postseason.
"That was certainly a moment a lot of thought went into," Peavy recalled on Monday. "I was a little behind the eight ball, kind of like Clay [Buchholz] was with his [sore] shoulder going into Game 4 the other night. We had to win two games. Woody Williams was going to throw one of those two games. If you go back and look at the stats for that September, Woody had had a lot of success going down the stretch. I really thought Woody was owed the start he got here in Game 4."
Peavy is that kind of teammate, but he's also not above going out and pitching with an undisclosed injury. He did just that against the Cards at old Busch Stadium in the opener of a 2005 NLDS. Peavy allowed eight runs and didn't make it out of the fifth inning in an 8-5 loss. Afterward, he disclosed he had pitched with a broken rib, sustained in a pileup during the celebration when the Padres won the NL West title the previous week at Petco.
The poor performance set the tone for a series that the Cardinals swept. Peavy was 24 years old at the time, and by the following postseason, he had evidently learned a heavy lesson from that mistake. In trying to pitch through the injury, he had let his friends and teammates down. That wasn't about to happen again.
"At the end of the day, you bow to your authorities," Peavy said about the 2006 meeting with Bochy and Towers. "You evaluate all the different information. Those two were obviously on different sides of what was going to happen. Hindsight is 20-20."
This time there are no two sides. Red Sox manager John Farrell and company will make the decision. Peavy is healthy, and if the big start comes to pass, it will be a cavalcade of pitchers behind him if Peavy allows two quick runs on four singles in the first inning as he did in Game 3 on Saturday night.
Peavy is 32 now, and he has never won a postseason game. He's 0-3 with a 9.27 ERA in five starts -- 23 earned runs in 22 1/3 innings. This postseason, Peavy had a decent start in the American League Division Series against Tampa Bay, not so good against the Tigers in the AL Championship Series and Game 3 of the World Series.
All that, though, is far behind Peavy. If Game 7 comes to pass, it will be now or never. Peavy is anxiously waiting.
"It's been a fun ride," Peavy said. "I think we all knew coming in that these two teams are very similar. It has been pure hard-nosed baseball. In any event, I'll be ready. Hopefully, we'll find a way to end up on top."