Jake Peavy will tell you his first concern is all about winning. But the righty also admitted he doesn't want to give fans any reason to dislike him.
He certainly didn't do that Friday, throwing 6 23 solid innings to help lead the White Sox past Detroit in a 5-2 home opener victory. Peavy struck out eight, only issuing one walk and allowing two runs on two hits. This coming against a Tigers lineup that entered Friday averaging nearly seven runs per game.
"It just seemed like from the first pitch, he was more intense and more aggressive," A.J. Pierzynski said. "Sometimes in the past he's waited until he got into trouble and then went. But today he went from pitch one and you see the results."
The results were that Peavy never really got in any trouble. He allowed a two-out, two-run home run to Delmon Young in the seventh, but that was it. Peavy cruised through the powerful Detroit lineup, working his fastball and off speed pitches in perfectly.
"I struck probably as many guys out on a fastball today as I did on a breaking ball, and that's an encouraging sign when you can get guys out with your fastball," Peavy explained. "Obviously, you'd like to see the numbers creep up to what they once were, but at the same time if you can throw fastballs by somebody, keep guys off balance, that's what you're trying to do."
Peavy actually generated five swings and misses on his fastball and seven on other offerings -- slider, change up, curveball, cutter. His fastball averaged about 91 miles per hour, although he frequently touched 92 and 93 with it. And with his location and command of his breaking stuff, that was all he needed.
"He's got that extra little jump on his fastball," Paul Konerko said. "He'd be the first to tell you he's not throwing 95, 96 like he was with San Diego, but he's throwing 92, 93 -- that's enough in this league velocity's not everything, but if you can hit spots like he can and have the breaking ball he has, it makes a world of difference when you can rush it up there a couple more miles per hour."
Things easily could've unraveled early for Peavy when the game was paused in the top of the first for about 10 minutes after Miguel Cabrera voiced a complaint about the batter's box. Peavy didn't throw during that break -- although Pierzynski broached the idea -- and ultimately wasn't worse off for it.
"Next time it's like that we're going to stop the game and re-do the boxes for us," laughed Pierzynski.
Peavy's effort was buoyed by an odd offensive combination in the seventh inning. After Konerko delivered a two-out RBI single to put the Sox up 2-0, Pierzynski laced a line drive into the right field corner. Brennan Boesch had a bit of trouble with the ball in the corner, and third base coach Joe McEwing decided to get aggressive, sending Konerko around third. He just barely slid in under Alex Avila's tag to put the Sox up 3-0.
"Usually I'm getting the stop sign for sure -- when Joe McEwing was wheeling me around I was a little bit, uh, curious about that, wondering what the heck was going on," Konerko said dryly. "And the play at the plate, I don't know if I was safe or out, but it seems like most times I slide like that into a play, the guy usually calls me out, so I was kinda surprised he called me safe. As an umpire, I gotta believe it's hard to not to anticipate me being out. I think he made a great call, I just slid underneath it."
That last run was all the Sox needed, although Detroit battled back in the seventh and eighth innings. But stellar defensive plays by Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez stopped both Detroit scoring threats, and a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth put the game out of reach, even for the powerful Tigers offense.
"You're playing against that team, with that lineup and that pitching staff, you have to try to keep pressure on them because when they get to hammer on us, they're going to put pressure and do everything they can to be aggressive and do everything to stomp on us," Pierzynski said. "You have to do that, and that's the right way to go about it every day. It doesn't matter if you're playing Detroit or anybody.
"We've been playing well, and we said all along if we can keep guys healthy and guys have their years, then we should be okay."