In truth, a four-game series was probably the best-case scenario for the Red Sox.
Sure, sweeps are great, but there’s nothing wrong with being tested a bit. And not only did the Red Sox pass their test with flying colors, but they got to use Jake Peavy in their Game 4 victory over the Rays rather than have him sit around for another week.
That delay certainly would have been a source of concern for Red Sox management. Peavy, the team’s big trade deadline acquisition, was more solid than stellar in 10 starts for Boston, going 4-1 with a 4.04 ERA. The team was 5-5 in his outings. He’d also taken ugly losses in his only two ever postseason starts with the Padres in 2005 and 2006. He gave up 13 runs and 19 hits over 9 2/3 innings, striking out just five, in a pair of NLDS defeats. Both came versus the Cardinals, and the Padres failed to advance both years.
Those playoff performances weren’t chief among Boston’s worries or the Red Sox never would have given up Jose Iglesias for him in the first place. But they couldn’t have wanted him to have to make his first start in the ALCS having gone three weeks without pitching in a game.
In Tuesday’s win, Peavy scattered six hits over 5 2/3 innings. He seemed well in control until Yunel Escobar ripped a line drive down the left-field line in the sixth that just missed going over the fence and turned into a double. Escobar came around to score on a one-out single, but Peavy got Wil Myers afterwards He still seemed to have quite a bit left in the tank at that point, but this being October and all, the Red Sox smartly went to the pen and brought in Craig Breslow to face James Loney. The relief corps combined for seven strikeouts in 3 1/3 scoreless innings the rest of the way.
Because the Red Sox failed to score until the seventh, Peavy didn’t get a win for his trouble. That hardly matters now, though. After 12 seasons, the former Cy Young Award winner is going to an LCS for the first time.