Nine innings, no runs, three hits, two walks, and seven strikeouts: that’s the Jake Peavy’s we’ve all been waiting for.
What’s more impressive is that it didn’t look like Peavy was going to have a good start from the beginning Saturday against the Nationals.
After allowing a solid single to Nyjer Morgan and an infield single to Cristian Guzman, Peavy looked to be in trouble with the Nats’ fearsome trio of Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, and Josh Willingham coming to the plate.
Zimmerman had a wOBA of .396 coming into the game. Dunn had a team-best wOBA of .411. And Willingham had a wOBA of .402. I’ll get to these three later on.
Peavy wasn’t throwing hard, either—his fastball was in the upper 80’s early on.
Coupled with Peavy’s shoulder soreness, it looked like Saturday had all the makings of a short outing for Peavy. In my pessimism, I sent my friend who was at the game a text saying “they gotta DL Peavy after this start.”
I’ll let Chipper Jones take it from here.
Peavy got out of the first unscathed, allowed a one-out single to Roger Bernadina in the second, and then didn’t allow another baserunner until a leadoff walk to Morgan in the ninth. Twenty consecutive batters between Bernadina and Morgan were retired by Peavy, the longest streak of his career.
And when Peavy ran into trouble in the ninth, he dug deep and pitched like a “real bulldog.” An intentional walk to Dunn with two out was the only time Zimmerman, Dunn, or Willingham reached base the entire game, with Zimmerman—on his bobblehead day, no less—striking out four times.
Peavy had outstanding life on his fastball—maybe the best movement he’s had all year. His slider was doing just enough to keep hitters off balance, and he frequently used it along with his cutter to backdoor lefties (in part thanks to Sam Holbrook’s generous strike zone).
Let’s not brush this start off because it was against the Nationals, though. They’re a much better hitting team than people give them credit for, especially with that core of Zimmerman, Dunn, and Willingham. Ivan Rodriguez and Roger Bernadina are having halfway decent seasons as well.
And remember: Peavy did all of this with only one run with which to work. One bad pitch and it’s a tie game—that’s what happened to Gavin Floyd last night. He made one bad pitch to Dunn, and Dunn crushed a game-tying double.
However, I will admit this: the true litmus test to see if Peavy is back, fixed, whatever will come when he faces an American League opponent. That could be June 30 at Kansas City or during the July 2-4 series at Texas, a team that plays in a hitter’s park and entered Saturday with a .335 team wOBA, tied for seventh-best in baseball.
There’s a chance Peavy’s shoulder requires Ozzie Guillen to further juggle the rotation, and if he does, Peavy will start in Texas. If not, he’ll face the Royals, who entered Saturday with the 12th-best team wOBA in baseball at .329.
Either way, Peavy will be truly tested soon enough. But Saturday’s shutout was still a test, and Peavy passed it with flying colors.