Rays catcher Jose Lobaton touched up Koji Uehara for a long, ninth-inning, walk-off home run on Monday night setting up a Game 4 showdown between Boston’s Jake Peavy and Tampa Bay’s Jeremy Hellickson.
Despite starting 305 major league games over his 12-seasons, Peavy will be making just his third postseason start. The first two, both for the Padres against the Cardinals didn’t turn out that well as we talked about here right after he was acquired from the White Sox in a three-way trade that landed Jose Iglesias in Detroit. Of the 24 active pitchers with 300 or more major league starts to their credit, only Aaron Harang (0) and Peavy’s teammate Ryan Dempster (1), have fewer postseason starts than Peavy whose résumé includes 132 career wins and the 2007 NL Cy Young Award.
Although Peavy has pitched just once against the Rays since 2010, a no decision this September 12 in which he gave up three earned runs in six innings, many of the Rays hitters have experience against him. Red-hot recently, James Loney has faced Peavy 32 times with some success, posting a .323/.344/.677 slash line with two home runs, five doubles and five RBIs against him. Loney is one of six Rays—with Ryan Longoria, Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce and Delmon Young—to have gone deep on Peavy at least once in their careers.
On the other side of the field Jeremy Hellickson is a somewhat surprising choice to start a postseason game (over rookie Chris Archer) given that in the last two months of the season he was among the worst starters in the major leagues. From July 31 on only Pittsburgh’s Jeff Locke had a higher ERA (7.25) than Hellickson’s 7.15, among pitchers who made at least 10 starts during that span. Although it was largely a procedural roster shuffle, Hellickson was actually optioned to the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs of the Florida State league on August 27 and not recalled until Sept. 3.
Despite that rough stretch, Hellickson has pitched well against Boston this season, allowing just 18 base runners in 18⅓ innings, for a 0.98 to go along with a 3.44 ERA in three starts—one of which was that Sept. 12 Rays win in which he was paired with Peavy.
Even with that success however, a pair of Red Sox have thrived when facing him. David Ortiz has reached base at a .516 clip with three home runs in his career against the tall righthander which matches the home run production of Jarrod Saltalamacchia against him as well, accounting for slugging percentages of .875 and .800 respectively. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mike Napoli has had major trouble against Hellickson, managing just two singles and six strikeouts in 14 career plate appearances against him.
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He has also authored or made contributions to many books, including the Sports Illustrateds 100 Fenway: A Fascinating First Century.
Now living in Marblehead, hes focusing his attention on the Boston sports scene, specifically delving into the numbers affecting the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, with the goal of informing and entertaining real fans. You can follow him on Twitter at @SabinoSports.