DETROIT -- After pitching parts of five seasons in the American League Central for the White Sox before joining the Red Sox in a three-team trade just before the deadline in July, Jake Peavy is as familiar with the Tigers as anyone in the Sox clubhouse.
In 12 career starts against the Tigers, Peavy is 4-5 with a 4.83 ERA. His familiarity with them will be put to the test Wednesday in Game 4 of the ALCS at Comerica Park.
“I do know those guys well,” Peavy said. “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. [Once] 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.”
Although the Tigers are trailing the Sox in the series and while some of their big hitters have yet to get hot, Detroit’s lineup is still formidable.
“The Tigers create such a problem for most starting pitchers,” Peavy said. “You've got to keep the first couple guys off base. Miguel [Cabrera], obviously, I think proved my point in the first two games. You can't just throw this guy away and think he's got no power, he can hit it the other way. Miguel Cabrera is Miguel Cabrera, the best player in baseball over the last few years. And you've got to pitch him as tough as ever and try to keep him in the ballpark.
“And we all know what Prince [Fielder] can do and Victor Martinez is swinging the bat as good as anybody, as good as anybody in baseball. As well as Jhonny Peralta is hot.
“It creates a tough challenge, but it comes down to executing pitches and I hope to do that [Wednesday] night and expect to do that.”
Peavy faced the Tigers once in the regular season while with the White Sox this year. He earned the win, going seven innings, giving up four runs on four hits and two walks with seven strikeouts. But, that’s in the past, with a different team, on a different stage, with different stakes.
“Your approach changes a little bit game to game when you face somebody, just depending on who's hot and the situation of the game kind of dictates your approach and what that's going to be,” Peavy said. “You certainly go in with a pretty hard game plan and what you're going to do in certain situations.
“And the game kind of dictates when you go to what you feel like is your strength against their weakness and when do you kind of tip your hand in how you're going to get guys out. Certainly it's dictated by the score, the inning, and what the situation you're in at that given time.
“One inning you go out and give these guys some momentum, and swing the bats, one through nine they can do some damage.”
This kind of game and stage is the reason the Red Sox went after Peavy, the 2007 National League Cy Young Award winner with the Padres, in July, even though it meant giving up shortstop Jose Iglesias -- whom manager John Farrell called “a magician with the glove” -- to the Tigers.
“[Peavy is] a competitor, and that goes back to long before he came to the big leagues. That's the way he's made. That's the way he's wired,” Farrell said.
“We know when he walks on the mound he's going to lay it all on the line, there's not going to be anything left in the tank when he walks off. I think he brings -- I think our guys in the dugout feed off the times he's yelling at himself to try to motivate himself at key moments. He's accountable. He's stand‑up. He takes responsibility for all that takes place between the lines. And we know for a fact by watching his preparation he's going to be ready to go on the day he's called upon.”
Peavy finished the regular season with a combined record of 12-5 and a 4.17 ERA in 23 starts. In 10 starts with the Sox he was 4-1 (4.04). He has made one start in the postseason so far, taking a no-decision in the decisive Game 4 of the ALDS against the Rays on Oct. 8. He went 5 2/3 innings, giving up one run on five hits with no walks and three strikeouts.
That was Peavy’s first outing since Sept. 25, a span of 13 days. On Wednesday night, Peavy will be on seven days rest. Starting pitchers are creatures of habit, comfortable with the normal five-day schedule. Peavy has adjusted his normal routine for the postseason.
“You're used to keeping your craft sharp by keeping out there and being able to throw your bullpens on certain days,” he said. “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. I've been on the mound just once, because I did feel pretty sharp.
“I was worried a little bit about that, I told most of you that followed us the last few months, I did change my arm angle just a little bit. And you saw command was a little bit of an issue there 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.”
Farrell said there was no signs of rust for Peavy in his last start and expects none on Wednesday.
“He's such a good athlete. And he's got a repeatable delivery that even with added rest he's a very good strike thrower,” Farrell said. “And that's been one of his characteristics over the course of his career. And even with a couple of additional days off this time, we fully expect him to have a consistent [outing] as well.”
Peavy, for his part, is anxious to show why the Red Sox sought him out.
“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,” he said.
“I promise you this, every part of me will be ready to go [Wednesday night] and I'll be mentally prepared and rested. I'll be physically ready and rested. It comes down to go out and executing pitches and staying under control. I can't tell you how excited I am for tomorrow. But at the same time, all that excitement and adrenaline will be channeled in the right direction as it was four or five days ago in Tampa.”