ST. LOUIS — Jake Peavy has been to All Star Games, he’s pitched in the postseason and was the National League Cy Young Award winner in 2007.
But at 32 and with 12 seasons in his rear view mirror, Peavy is about to experience something different. When he takes the mound for the Red Sox in Game 3 of the World Series on Saturday night, Peavy will be making the most significant start of his career.
“Let’s not sugarcoat anything,” Peavy said Friday. “This is the biggest game up until this point in time that I’ve ever pitched. We’d be silly to sit here and say otherwise. I’ve never been to this. This is why I play the game. This is why we all, I would like to think, play the game, is to be a world champion, is to be the best in the world at what you do at the highest level.”
This is why the Red Sox acquired Peavy from the White Sox on July 30. With their eyes on an October run, Red Sox management was searching for pitching depth that would sustain the team through injuries and slumps.
And here they are in the World Series, facing what is arguably the most important game of the season and the ball is being handed to Peavy. With Clay Buchholz experiencing fatigue in his shoulder, Peavy is the team’s next best pitching option behind Jon Lester and John Lackey.
That’s just fine with manager John Farrell, a former pitching coach.
Peavy, once among the best starters in baseball, is no longer the Cy Young-caliber pitcher he was in 2007. But he remains fiercely competitive and has the same high standards for himself.
Just watch his body language and facial expressions during his game.
“It’s how he continues to maintain a level of competitiveness to not slack off or to ask more of himself,” Farrell said. “The one thing I think he’s done a very good job at the last probably three or four starts is creating an energy level in his delivery that doesn’t take away from locating pitches.”
How important is Saturday night’s game? In World Series in which teams split the first two games, the team winning Game 3 has gone on to win 37 titles (67.3 percent). It’s happened the past four times and in 11 of the past 12 series in which there was a split in the first two games.
The last time a Game 3 winner in a 1-1 series didn’t win the World Series was in 2003, when the Marlins beat the Yankees. Before that, it was in 1979 (Pirates over Orioles). And then there’s this — the home team winning Game 3 in a 1-1 have gone on to win the title eight consecutive times.
With the Cardinals coming off a 4-2 victory in Game 2 at Fenway Park, there’s a sense they return home with momentum. So the importance of Game 3 can’t be understated.
Peavy, coming off horrible outing against the Tigers in the ALCS, is fully aware of what’s at stake.”
“To go out in a World Series game and have a chance to sway the odds, the favor, in your direction, on the road, with a team that’s got some momentum with a big win at our place … I think this is the biggest start in my career,” Peavy said. “That being said, that doesn’t change anything for me. Obviously you feel a little bit different, but once you get in the swing of the game, it will be another game and we’ll get in the feel of it, just a little more intensity, a little more adrenaline from the fans and a little more hype around it. But, yeah, this is the biggest game I’ve pitched.”
Peavy (12-5, 4.17 ERA) was 4-0, 4.04 in 10 starts for the Red Sox after coming to Boston in a three-team deal that sent shortstop Jose Iglesias to Detroit. Overall between the Red Sox and White Sox, he had a 5.27 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP (walks and hits per inning) on the road.
He’s had two road starts in the postseason, with varying results. In the ALDS, he was effective at Tampa (5 2/3 innings, five hits, one run). In the ALCS, he was awful in Detroit (three innings, five hits, seven runs).
One positive number for the Red Sox: Peavy has a 2.25 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in three starts at Busch Stadium, including his most recent a start in 2012 for the White Sox.
He thrived in the National League as a member of the Padres, so there is a familiarity with the stadium and many of the Cardinals’ hitters.
If he steps up, Peavy will distinguish himself with Red Sox fans. He has one year left on his contract and figures to back next season.
“I feel like the pitcher can sway the game more so in his favor in the National League,” Peavy said. “I’m exactly where I belong at this point in time and I couldn’t be any more excited to be in Boston, hopefully for next year, and hopefully beyond.”