At the time the trade was consummated, their playoff spot was no certainty, and the division title was even less secure. Nobody knew when Clay Buchholz would be back, Brandon Workman was a rookie, and Felix Doubront had never pitched all the way through an entire big league season.
So at the time the Red Sox pulled the trigger on a three-team trade that brought Jake Peavy to Boston from Chicago, it was a move made to shore up their starting pitching for the stretch run -- particularly given the way the lack of depth in their rotation had buried them in each of the two previous Septembers.
The veteran righty did that. And the Sox made the playoffs. But it's not clear how much of an impact the first really had on the second. Boston went 5-5 in Peavy's 10 starts, during which he personally delivered a 4.04 ERA. That's basically league-average, and at least presents the possibility that the Sox could've got the same results by sticking with rookie Brandon Workman in the rotation until Buchholz returned, then letting Doubront or Ryan Dempster remain on his regular turn in September.
For that reason, a case could be made that it's still unclear whether or not exchanging Jose Iglesias for Peavy was indeed a good deal.
Though that case could very well be closed Tuesday night.
No matter what happens henceforth during Peavy's time in Boston -- either the rest of this season, or all of next season, or throughout the duration of Iglesias' days in Detroit -- if Peavy wins Game 4 of the ALDS, and puts the Sox through to the ALCS without having to go through the stresses and strains and potential sadness of a winner-take-all Game 5 against a motivated David Price, then the trade will have been worth it.
End of debate.
"We're looking forward to Jake being on the mound tomorrow," Manager John Farrell said after Monday's 5-4 walkoff loss. "It's one of the main reasons we acquired him at the deadline is to pitch in a game like (Game 4)."
Given the arguable impact he had on the club's regular-season finish, at this point the game has really become the reason the Red Sox went after Peavy back in July, given how hugely important this game is to this series and their season. Not wanting to go back to Boston with the momentum and the pitching matchup both in Tampa's favor, they need their starter to go out and give them every chance to win this thing now.
And as a No. 4 starter with guts, guile, and good command, Peavy gives the Sox a better chance of getting that than Dempster or Doubront would. He's a competitor to his core, so much so that he was even muttering to himself at times during last week's intrasquad scrimmage at Fenway Park, and that's a level of intensity you want on your side under circumstances such as these.
It's also an indication of just how motivated should be when he takes the mound tonight. For all he's achieved in his career, he hasn't experienced any real success in the postseason, either on a personal level (his aggregate ERA is 12.10 over two starts) or as part of a team (his clubs have never won a series).
With his start tonight, then, the 32-year-old Peavy has an opportunity to permanently alter his legacy. He has an opportunity to make the sort of impact he's been waiting his entire career to make. And he has an opportunity to do so against a lineup he has had success against, in a park where's he's pitched well, and coming off a break that has typically meant good things for his performance.
Takes James Loney's 10-for-31 out of the mix, and the rest of the Rays' roster is 21-for-109 against him lifetime, equating a batting average of .193. He's undefeated in three career starts at Tropicana Field, with a 3.93 ERA. And he's also unbeaten this season when given at least six days between starts (5-0 with a 3.35 ERA) as he climbs the bump for his first big-league outing since working in Colorado 13 days ago.
So it's all set up for Peavy on Tuesday night -- and that's what makes this game such a referendum on the trade that brought him to Boston. If he can't come through for the Sox in this big spot when his matchup, his motivation, his mental state makes the conditions almost ideal, it calls into question how good he'll be in a future series, as well as a future season, and in fact whether or not he was the right player for Ben Cherington to go out and acquire to begin with, knowing full well then that whoever he brought in before the deadline had a decent chance of being someone the Sox would turn to in October.
And knowing that when that time came, it would only be about how well he pitched -- regardless of how good a teammate he might be or how well he meshed.
Peavy talks with a belief that he can serve both of those roles, and, naturally, that Cherington's trade was the right move for that reason. That it was supposed to happen. "The day I walked in this clubhouse I felt like I was home," he said. "I felt like this is where I was meant to be. I belong with this group of players, with this group of coaching staff and front office and with this group of fans. This is where I belong."
A Nation of fans is hoping that by the end of Tuesday night they can unilaterally agree.
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