Peavy wants it now
PHOENIX – Thirty minutes after Greg Maddux won for the first time in 11 career starts here, after the San Diego Padres moved into the National League West lead by themselves for the first time in two months, after they'd put a 10-2 beating on the Arizona Diamondbacks, their ace, Jake Peavy, nodded his head at the arguments against him risking fastball life and precious limb to pitch here Wednesday night.
The Padres are winning again.
He is pitching as well as he ever has.
He is healthy.
Nearly a month of games remain, all but eight against NL West opponents, none without significance.
Peavy has pitched on three days' rest only once before, when his right arm was three years younger.
So why alter the methods by which they have won eight of 11 games, and in three weeks have gone from five back to one up, all but burying the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers, and just now getting started on the Diamondbacks?
Peavy threw 99 pitches in seven innings Saturday against the Dodgers, allowed two hits, won his 16th game and lowered his ERA to 2.10. The wins and ERA lead the league.
Now Peavy wants the ball back Wednesday against the Diamondbacks. The franchise pitcher wants a shot in this series, behind Maddux on Monday afternoon and Chris Young on Tuesday night, in the thick of the division race.
General manager Kevin Towers and manager Bud Black are considering it. They are thinking of the example it would set in the clubhouse, they are struck by the conviction of Peavy's request and, of course, they wouldn't mind putting another game or two between themselves and the Diamondbacks.
"You look at the situation, there are pros and cons," Peavy said. "It's a chance that needs to be taken. I'd love a chance to compete in this series, if that's the way it plays out. I'd love that chance."
He bunched his shoulders in a tiny shrug, adding, "I don't think it's that big a deal."
But, then, he wouldn't have asked. He wouldn't have Black and Towers weighing the issues of risk and reward, of allowing Peavy to be what he is – a pitcher who hungers for the big game.
Peavy has it all worked out. He'd pitch Wednesday against the Diamondbacks, miss the Colorado series, then pitch next Tuesday night in Los Angeles, on five days' rest, granting him extra recovery time. The schedule also would have Peavy pitch against only NL West teams for the final four weeks.
In first place by those five games on the morning of Aug. 19, the Diamondbacks have lost nine of 14 since. They've lost six of their last eight. In the past eight days, they are 1-4 against the Padres, and also lost a series in Colorado.
Peavy views it, probably, as an opportunity to press the Padres' advantage. Their pitching staff is the best in the National League. Their rotation's top end – Peavy, Young, Maddux – is the best of the league's potential playoff teams.
The idea here is to pitch the Diamondbacks as far out of the race as possible, just as Maddux did Monday, needing only 82 pitches to get into the seventh inning. And the idea is to take advantage of an offense that is generally limited, but over the past 2½ weeks has averaged six runs a game, and Monday afternoon hit five home runs, four against Diamondbacks starter Micah Owings.
It is tempting, Black, the first-year manager and former pitcher, acknowledged. It is a rare thing to possess a pitcher of Peavy's talent and desire, only 26 years old, not just willing to take the ball, but insistent upon it.
"He's getting to be 'a guy,' " Black said.
A guy who batters don't want to face.
A guy who dominates when he feels right, and simply wins when he doesn't.
That kind of a guy.
"This could be a situation where you do it," Black said. "We just want to make sure he's rested and feels good."
Before Maddux outpitched Owings, the talk was of bringing Peavy back early if they needed to avoid a sweep. Afterward, the talk was of him pitching for a sweep, if it came to that.
Black tried to stay out of the conversation most of the day, and did again before he left the clubhouse. He knows what Peavy wants. He also knows that Peavy's body sometimes needs to be protected from Peavy's purpose.
"I think we're going to sleep on it," Black said.
Peavy will be waiting.
"I've got no problem with it," he said. "Guys did it all the time back in the day. And it's not like they're not asking me to be Superman. They're asking me to come back a day early."
Of course, they're not asking him.
He's asking them.