DETROIT — Although Detroit’s starting pitching has been sensational, Boston’s has been hit or miss, with the biggest miss coming in Game 4 Thursday night when Jake Peavy continued his not-so-stellar postseason career by allowing seven runs over three-plus innings in a 7-3 loss as the Tigers evened the American League Championship Series at 2-2.
“It was tough,” Peavy said. “I felt like I let the boys down. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I just couldn’t make that big pitch. It was about damage control and when I created the mess, I couldn’t limit the damage. We saw it can escalate and get out of hand. No excuses. It’s on me. I can promise you, we’ll be back tomorrow as a ball club.’’
Peavy’s postseason ERA in four starts in 10.31, his best outing in the Division Series vs. Tampa Bay when he allowed one run over 5⅔ innings. But he couldn’t come close to taming a revamped Tiger lineup that scored five runs in the second inning and two in the fourth when Peavy was lifted for Brandon Workman.
The other subpar start was by Clay Buchholz, who allowed five runs over 5⅔ innings in Game 2, though Boston came back to win on David Ortiz’s grand slam and Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s walkoff single.
Anibal Sanchez gave the Tigers six innings of no-hit ball in Game 1. Max Scherzer allowed one run in seven innings in Game 2. In Game 3, Justin Verlander gave up one run in eight innings, and Wednesday night Doug Fister allowed a run in six innings.
Peavy had nothing after a clean first inning. He allowed a single to designated hitter Victor Martinez, and then walked Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila. Jacoby Ellsbury saved a run with a nice running catch to rob Omar Infante. But Peavy got no bounce from that.
He walked Austin Jackson to force in a run, which was particularly egregious since Jackson had struck out in more than half of his at-bats (18 out of 33) this postseason entering the game. He’d been having so many problems getting on base that Detroit manager Jim Leyland dropped him from leadoff to eighth. Peavy threw him four straight balls as if he were pitching to Barry Bonds.
Jose Iglesias then hit what seemed to be an inning-ending double play, but the ball handcuffed Dustin Pedroia and he was able only to get the out at second in an uncharacteristic miscue. But it opened the floodgates. Torii Hunter, hitting leadoff for the first time since 2000, doubled in two runs and Miguel Cabrera, hitting No. 2, singled him in for a 5-0 lead.
“I was trying to get Peralta to get a ground ball. I made some good pitches to him, but put him on and Avila,’’ said Peavy. “I made a good pitch to Infante to get him out, but I needed to make better pitches to Jackson. And then the ground ball by Iglesias. That’s a tough play for Pedey. That’s not on him. I’ve got to do a better job. There’s nobody in this world who you’d rather have out there to make that play than him. That’s on me, not on him.’’
By the fourth, things continued to go bad for Peavy with Infante leading off with a ground-rule double to left field. Jackson reached on an infield single to second base, scoring Infante, and Peavy’s night was over. Cabrera singled off Workman, scoring Jackson.
In a series where Detroit’s starting pitching has been dominant, it’s tough for Peavy to lay an egg. The Sox were put in a major hole early against the sinkerballing Fister, who has now dominated Boston hitters over his last two starts.
Peavy had made 12 starts against the Tigers, whom he faced a lot when he was with the White Sox. He is 4-5 with a 4.83 ERA and 1-3 with a 4.15 ERA at Comerica. With six days’ rest, which is what he had Wednesday night, Peavy was 5-0 in seven starts in 2013. So the Sox felt good about Peavy.
Peavy said, “I promise you this, every part of me will be ready to go tomorrow and I’ll be mentally prepared and rested. I’ll be physically ready and rested. It comes down to go out and executing pitches and staying under control. I can’t tell you how excited I am for tomorrow. But at the same time, all that excitement and adrenaline will be channeled in the right direction as it was four or five days ago in Tampa.”
He may have had the best intentions, but the results were not there.
Leyland felt comfortable taking Fister out after 97 pitches and handing the game over to his suspect bullpen with a six-run lead. Fister will now be available out of the bullpen for Game 7, if need be. Peavy’s outing allowed the Tigers to be successful with their new batting order, which had the best hitters — Hunter, Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Martinez, and Peralta in the first five slots, with the surging Avila was sixth.
The final three batters — Infante, Jackson, and Iglesias were batting .200 or less entering the game, but they went a collective 2 for 4 against Peavy. The only hitter Peavy could master was Fielder, who went 0 for 2 against him.
“My sinker was good tonight,” Peavy said. “I had trouble reeling it in. Can’t give guys free passes.”
Peavy said he vowed to be back strong, whether it’s in relief in Games 6 and 7 or as a starter in the World Series.
“Absolutely. I’m going to do whatever I can do to pitch again in whatever capacity I can be in,” he said.” I’m sure we’ll talk if I get into the bullpen mix. I’m pulling to get back out there.”
With the series tied, 2-2, Peavy said, “Nobody’s got any momentum and edge. Two great ball clubs. Two great pitchers and two solid lineups. I’m sure it’s going to be a great series the rest of the way.”
Peavy will forever want to take this one back. The Sox obtained him for games like this, and on this night he came up way short of expectations.Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.