BOSTON -- Jake Peavy is the man in the middle.
Among a stable of six Boston Red Sox starters, he is not considered among the top two, but he's not in the bottom two. He is one of two members of that grouping whose next start date is still up in the air. His performance since coming to Boston has been pretty good, better than average, but not the kind of stuff that lights the world on fire.
On Wednesday against Baltimore, Peavy remained, well, pretty good. There were some really nice moments, particularly the four hitless innings to start off his night and the 1-2-3 seventh that featured two of his eight strikeouts to end it. And there were some rocky times, like six ringing hits in the fifth and sixth innings that helped the Orioles turn a two-run deficit into a one-run lead.
"I gotta do a better job of holding that lead, no other way to it," Peavy said. "That was real close to seven, eight scoreless and I just let it get away from me a little bit there."
The final line is plenty good enough to win on most nights. Peavy struck out eight, walked one and surrendered three runs in seven frames. It was even more encouraging given the fact that he has altered his delivery by dropping his arm angle to a three-quarters position. While the change yielded mostly positive results, Peavy felt that it was not so fluid when runners reached base.
"I've messed around a little bit with dropping a bit lower, and I think if you saw my Tampa Bay start, that ball sailing, running, it's such a fine line with getting that ball where you want to throw it," he said. "My biggest thing is getting jumpy in the stretch."
Indeed, the moment one man reached for the Orioles, others soon followed, and the lead -- while small -- vanished in a hurry.
However, progress was made. In that Tampa Bay start, Peavy walked five while striking out four and gave up three runs in six frames. He said he was pleased with better strikeout-to-walk numbers Wednesday night, and his manager shed light on how that ratio was improved upon.
"Jake was outstanding," Farrell said. "I thought he had good live action to his fastball, particularly in to left-handers where he was able to have that sinker come back in and catch the inside corner. More consistent power from start to finish. More strikes. He pitched a solid seven innings. They bunched their hits together in the fifth and the sixth ... but I thought Jake was very good tonight."
While observers continue to debate who should get the ball in Game 1 of a potential American League Division Series, Peavy's name is barely, if ever, mentioned alongside Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. He is relegated to Game 3 or 4 in most scenarios. But with the Sox headed toward home-field advantage in that series, those games are of the utmost importance. For one, they will occur on the road. Also, they may be series-clinching or season-saving starts, depending on what happens in the first two games at Fenway Park.
For those reasons, Peavy's prep work over the final couple of weeks is just as important as those luminaries at the heart of the Game 1 debate. The man in the middle will, at some point, be front and center in Boston's bid to survive, or finish, a playoff series.