After his three-hit gem against Oakland, Jake Peavy has now thrown three shutouts for the White Sox in 42 starts.
That matches the number of shutouts Peavy threw for the Padres ... over 212 starts.
What's weirder is that Peavy threw all his San Diego shutouts in 2005. Not one before, not one after. He didn't throw one during his Cy Young season of 2007. In fact, he only pitched into the eighth inning once that year.
There are probably some reasons for that -- the National League makes its pitchers hit and run the bases, which often leads to their removal even when they're pitching well. But on this side of his career, Peavy has definitely benefited from a rather long leash, and that's been a detriment more often than it's been an asset. Because of his injury- and lack-of-foresight-marred history, when Peavy goes the distance, it often sets off as many alarms as party favors.
I was in attendance for his first shutout against Washington back in June of 2010. Just like Monday, Peavy threw a three-hitter on 107 pitches. Unlike Monday, he entered that game with a 5.62 ERA, and somehow made one measly run hold up for the Sox's fifth consecutive win. It was the first time he'd really made his mark for the White Sox.
He followed that start with seven more shutout innings against the Cubs, and a quality start in defeat against Kansas City. One start later, his lat flew off the bone, ending his season. When tracing the steps that might have led to that end, the start against Washington was looked at with greater scrutiny.
Peavy had been sore earlier in the season, causing him to miss a June start in Pittsburgh. He was pushed back to a Saturday afternoon in Washington, where he threw a 1-0 shutout on June 19. Three MRIs were taken, Peavy said, and there was "never any talk about the lat." He didn't want a little fluid in his shoulder to slow him down just when he was starting to turn around his season.
Peavy threw his second shutout on May 18, 2011, three-hitting the Indians in another 1-0 victory. It was an inspirational effort, but it was also a 111-pitch effort, and in his second start after an unproven surgery. At that point, nobody trusted Ozzie Guillen nor Peavy to have a good handle on what he could truly handle, and it was one of several times Peavy rode positive momentum over the edge, and then found himself lacking stuff his next time out.
These unfortunate events force us to dissect the circumstances every time Peavy tries to finish the job, and only fair given the rich history of failing to tell Peavy "no." And like everything else regarding the Sox, it's feels strange to be so optimistic.
In the past, Peavy and/or the Sox have reported fatigue or soreness leading up to the injury/setback, and the Sox ignored it. This year, it's been all clear from the start. Moreoever, the shutout didn't cause a massive uptick in his pitch count -- it was a low-stress outing, requiring one fewer pitch than he threw over seven innings against Baltimore his previous start.
The only reason for pause is the pause that took place in the ninth inning. The A's used three pitchers in the ninth inning, which meant that Peavy sat in the dugout with 96 pitches on his arm for longer than everybody would like.
Is that enough to create a legit cause for concern this time? I don't think so. At least, I'd like to think not. I'd like to think Peavy is structurally sound, and that he provided the perfect reason to give the bullpen a night off during a stretch of 17 consecutive games, with four games against Boston looming before the next off day. This time around, the worries are only speculatory. Peavy has proved doubters wrong with every start, and that's one area where I hope nobody tells him to stop.