BOSTON -- Jake Peavy was the center of attention entering Monday night’s interleague series opener with the Chicago Cubs. The Red Sox right-hander hadn’t won in his previous 11 outings and sported an earned run average hovering ever closer to 5.00.
Peavy turned in a game in which he pitched more than well enough to win. Problem is Jake Arrieta was simply better.
In sum, Peavy’s outing against the Cubs came down to only a handful of pitches. And so it remained the same old result, as Peavy and the Red Sox fell to the Cubs, 2-0. Arrieta had a no-hitter intact with two outs in the eighth inning.
The deciding blow of the game came on Peavy’s first-pitch fastball to Cubs right fielder Nate Schierholtz in the fourth inning. After Wellington Castillo drew a two-out walk, the next pitch out of Peavy’s hand found its way into the right-field bullpen for a two-run home run. It was the 17th homer Peavy has served up this season in 17 starts.
“Spotting it is everything,” said Peavy, who fell to 1-7 on the season. “I missed a few times tonight, but the thing about the one fastball I threw over the plate got caught -- first pitch -- and it decided the ballgame. Command’s everything, it’s everything at this level.”
Negatives aside, Peavy turned in his 10th quality start of the year. Although he hasn’t been credited with a win since the month of April (an 8-1 victory over the Blue Jays), Peavy’s record isn’t quite as bad as it seems. During his nine no-decisions, Peavy exited with the game tied five times.
“Jake’s pitched a number of good games for us, but not much to show for it,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
It hasn’t always been pretty either, evidenced by Peavy’s last start, when he coughed up seven earned runs on eight hits in five innings against the Seattle Mariners.
As in that start, Peavy’s fortunes have ridden on the principle that location is key. To that measure, battery mate David Ross saw a vast improvement in Peavy from his frightful performance at Safeco. Peavy’s seven strikeouts came via a variety of pitches -- changeup, curveball and slider. But, perhaps most importantly, Peavy’s fastball was on point.
“I liked his fastball location in and out -- [it] was really, really good,” Ross said. “He pumped a lot more heaters, more than he has. That was probably the difference in his performance today.”
Still, even as Peavy was chased after six innings of five-hit ball, there was one pitch he would have liked to have back.
“He just pulled a fastball,” Ross said of Schierholtz’s home run.
“[Peavy] didn’t make many mistakes tonight and the few he did …” Ross trailed off.
Another of the few was walking Castillo with two outs in the fourth, after having the Cubs catcher down in the count, 1-2. Peavy missed outside with a 91 mph fastball over the outside corner on the 3-2 pitch. He barked back in disgust following the ball four call.
“It’s the little things,” Peavy said. “You get that called third strike, you’re in the dugout and the game could’ve played out differently. The way it’s been going on my day, obviously you don’t get the call and then you give up a two-run home run that decides the game.”
Nobody was about to outpitch Arrieta on Monday, and little of that has to do with Peavy. The problem for Peavy, however, is that his outings could be numbered. He might have avoided the roster pinch when Rubby De La Rosa was optioned back to Triple-A Pawtucket over the weekend. It might not happen again.
“It’s always nice to see your fans acknowledge a great performance,” Peavy said of the standing ovation fans gave Arrieta after he exited in the eighth inning following Stephen Drew’s base hit. “It’s just hard to enjoy that when you’re on the wrong end of it.”