Commentary

Can Peavy come up aces vs. Cards?

Alabama native can secure a permanent spot in Red Sox Nation with a Game 3 win

Updated: October 26, 2013, 1:43 AM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

ST. LOUIS -- In 113 seasons of baseball in Boston, the Red Sox have had three starting pitchers born in Alabama.

Big Ed Morris of Foshee, Ala., was the best pitcher on a bad Sox team and was on the verge of being sold to the Yankees in 1932 for reportedly as much money as the Yanks had spent to buy Babe Ruth from Boston. But just before spring training, Big Ed was stabbed to death in a fight at a fish fry held at a hunting and fishing camp on the Escambia River. The man found guilty of manslaughter in Big Ed's death never spent a day in jail.

Ivy Paul Andrews of Dora, Ala., which he was fond of calling "Horse Creek," pitched with the Sox in between stints with the Yankees. Of course he became known as "Poison Ivy," and while with the Sox missed most of spring training one year when he was bitten by a dog while trying to break up a dog fight. Joe DiMaggio wrote a letter in his behalf lobbying for his induction into the Alabama Hall of Fame.

[+] EnlargeJake Peavy
Jeff Curry/USA TODAY SportsJake Peavy is the third Alabama native to take the mound for the Red Sox, but he'll be the first to pitch for Boston in the World Series.

The third Alabaman? Why, that would be Jacob Edward "Jake" Peavy of Semmes, Ala., who learned the game from his beloved grandfather Paw Paw, broke each of his ankles twice and his left wrist once growing up, is legally blind without corrective lenses, and, incidentally, is pitching Game 3 of the 109th World Series on Saturday night against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Need we say how much that means to him? Aw, hell, we'll let him tell you himself.

"Let's not sugarcoat anything, this is the biggest game up until this point in time that I've ever pitched," he said. "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.

"And so to go out in a World Series game and have a chance to sway the odds, the favor, in your direction, on the road, against a team that's got some momentum with a big win at our place? Of course, this is the biggest start in my career."

Peavy brought his boys to Friday's media session. "This is Jacob Edward Peavy and Wyatt Peavy," he said, motioning to the two kids in Sox caps sitting on the dais with him. Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times asked each of them to name his favorite player.

Wyatt: "Besides my dad, Jacoby Ellsbury."

Jacob: "Besides my dad, Jonny Gomes."

Peavy: "They've got good taste."

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Funny thing is, Peavy could easily have been here, pitching for the Cardinals. Before the July 31 trading deadline, that's where he kept hearing the Chicago White Sox were dealing him. Boston, meanwhile, was a long way from home for a country boy.

Of course, so was San Diego, where Peavy began his big league career and won a Cy Young Award, and from the day he was introduced at Fenway Park, he made it seem like a slice of redneck heaven. "I found a home in Boston," he said, "that I couldn't be any more thankful to be."

He often repeats the story of how the first person he saw in the Sox clubhouse after the trade was Gomes. Peavy asked him how he was doing, and Gomes replied, "One day closer to the parade."

Almost sounds like the title to a country song, doesn't it?

In the Sox clubhouse, Peavy said, he found a whole cast of characters just as hungry as he was to fill the one void missing from his stellar career -- a World Series ring. He rattles off the names of the veterans, like him, who haven't been here before -- Gomes, and Ryan Dempster, and David Ross. He mentions the ones who have -- David Ortiz and Jon Lester and Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, all with the Sox, Ortiz twice -- and Shane Victorino and John Lackey with other teams.

[+] EnlargeJake Peavy
Jeff Curry/USA TODAY SportsJake Peavy's sons accompanied him to the dais for Friday's session with the media.

"I can tell you," he said, "there are 25 guys and a coaching staff and an organization that wants this as bad as we've ever wanted anything in life. And we're going to do all we can do to make it happen.

"That's not saying it's going to happen, but I promise you this, we're going to exhaust every effort we can possibly do as a group to try to win a World Series. As I'm sure St. Louis is doing, and that's what makes it so great."

And the man who will be standing on the mound Saturday night, screaming at himself? That would be Peavy.

"There's no one who wants the ball more than Jake Peavy right now," said Daniel Nava, who will be starting in left field in Game 3. "And I think that's the right guy to have on the mound.

"When you have a guy yelling at the top of his lungs at himself on the mound, it's also entertaining. It gets me pumped up."

As much confidence as the Sox have in Peavy, and he of course in himself, there is the matter of him being cuffed around by the Tigers in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series in Detroit, where he was knocked out in the fourth and was charged with a yield of seven runs on five hits and three walks.

No point in sugarcoating that one, either, which Peavy didn't at the time. "Everything is fixed, fixable," he said Friday. He mentioned he has been working from a lower arm slot and making the necessary adjustments for that to be effective.

"The one thing I think he's done a very good job of in the last three or four starts is creating an energy level in his delivery that doesn't take away from locating pitches," manager John Farrell said. "In his second inning in Detroit, I thought he started to pitch a little too fine and maybe didn't trust his stuff enough, which wasn't the case in the first inning."

Peavy is not the retiring sort. He leads not only with his fastball, but with his heart. With his two boys listening, and with the memory of his late Paw Paw never far from his soul, Peavy said: "Obviously, I'm an emotional guy, but at the same time I'm 13 years into this. I'm as excited as ever will be for a start to go out there tomorrow.

"But there's not going to be a situation that I get overwhelmed in and get too emotional and let the emotions of the moment beat me up. I just feel like I've been in enough situations over the years that there's nothing tomorrow night that's going to rattle me or get in my head; it doesn't matter how loud the crowd is."

On Saturday night, Jake Peavy, the pride of little Semmes, Ala., takes the mound for the Red Sox. A victory in the World Series, and he will forever be a part of New England.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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