ST. LOUIS -- Jake Peavy can tell you Saturday night will be just another start. He can wax on about how the game is the same when you step between the lines and tell you that he attacks every outing with the same ferocity, be it a getaway day in June or, in this case, Game 3 of the World Series from a sold-out Busch Stadium.
But he's been around long enough to know that isn't the case.
"Let's not sugarcoat anything," Peavy said, "this is the biggest game up until this point in time that I've ever pitched. We'd be silly to sit here and say otherwise. I've never been to this. This is why I play the game. This is why we all, I would like to think, play the game, is to be a world champion, to be the best in the world at what you do at the highest level. And so to go out in a World Series game and have a chance to sway the odds, the favor, in your direction, on the road, with a team that's got some momentum with a big win at our place, of course -- I think this is the biggest start in my career."
Peavy's career spans 12 years, includes three 95-plus-loss seasons and, until Saturday, zero appearances on this stage. His first World Series start will see him match up with 25-year-old right-hander Joe Kelly -- air time is 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX, with first pitch at 8:07 -- and will come 10 days after a rough outing against the Tigers in his American League Championship Series debut.
On Friday afternoon, just before the Red Sox squeezed in a workout, Peavy took to the podium alongside his two sons, Jacob Edward and Wyatt. And he hardly minced words.
Saturday's game, he said, "will be a war."
But the 32-year-old right-hander is confident he'll be able to handle it.
Loves to face: Shane Victorino, 0-for-2, BB Hates to face: Stephen Drew, 1-for-3, 3B, K
Loves to face: Yadier Molina, 4-for-22, 5 K Hates to face: Carlos Beltran, 8-for-20, HR, 6 RBI, 4 BB
Why he'll win: From June 1 to the end of the regular season, Kelly was third among all Major League pitchers with a 1.97 ERA, trailing only Jose Fernandez and Clayton Kershaw.
Why he'll win: The Cards' offense has gone notably cold in several postseason games this fall, scoring three or fewer runs seven times.
Pitcher beware: Entering Thursday's Game 2, the Red Sox had outscored their opponents 53-21 in 11 playoff games, and Boston's 4.8 runs per game was the best mark of any club this October.
Pitcher beware: Though he was knocked out of Game 1 with a rib injury, Beltran was medically cleared to play Thursday. Beltran, one of baseball's most successful postseason hitters, is 8-for-20 (.400) with three doubles, a triple and a homer in his career vs. Peavy.
Bottom line: Kelly, who admitted to being too "amped up" in his last outing, will need to maintain his even-keel approach and pitch like he did when he was the Cardinals' most consistent starter of the second half.
Bottom line: Peavy will look to bounce back from a poor ALCS performance (seven earned runs in three innings) when he faces the Cards for the third time in October. A win on baseball's biggest stage Saturday could make Boston's midseason trade for Peavy well worth it.
"There's not going to be a situation that I get overwhelmed in and get too emotional and let the emotions of the moment beat me up," he said. "I just feel like I've been in enough situations over the years that there's nothing tomorrow night that's going to rattle me or get in my head."
Peavy said he wasn't rattled when he took the mound at Comerica Park for Game 4 of the ALCS. But something wasn't right. He lasted three-plus innings, gave up seven runs on five hits, walked three batters and struck out only one.
That Oct. 16 night, Peavy put the first three runners on in the second, issued a four-pitch, bases-loaded walk to the free-swinging Austin Jackson, suffered through a botched double play, surrendered a two-run double to Torii Hunter, gave up an RBI single to Miguel Cabrera and put his hitters in a 5-0 hole before they even came to bat a third time.
Afterward, Peavy said: "I feel like I let the boys down."
When the Red Sox acquired him from the White Sox on July 30 -- as part of the three-team, seven-player trade that sent Jose Iglesias to the Tigers -- it was for games like that, and Peavy didn't come through. Heading into his second chance, though, he said "everything is fixed" and talked about how it's "just a small, small adjustment that can make all the difference in the world," with part of it being a lower arm slot.
Peavy's Game 3 start, which lines him up to take the ball for a potential Game 7, is a byproduct of the right shoulder fatigue that has moved Clay Buchholz back to Game 4.
The last time Peavy faced the Cardinals was June 13, 2012. He pitched seven innings of one-run ball in St. Louis that night, giving up four hits, walking two and striking out six -- and seven of the players in the opposing lineup have started at least one game in this Series.
"I think he just needs to trust his stuff a little bit more," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He came out and threw a clean first inning. And then in the second inning, he tried to be a little bit too fine, it worked against him. The walks contributed to the big inning. And then we didn't make a play at second base. It was a routine double play that turned a two-run inning into a five-run inning. So, it's just about trusting his stuff more."
When the White Sox dangled Peavy before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, St. Louis was one of the interested suitors. Peavy, who spent his first 7 1/2 years in San Diego, enjoys the National League style of play and said he "would have been excited" to join the Cardinals. But he also believes he's "found a home in Boston" -- even after concerns that he didn't want to play in the Northeast or pitch in the AL.
"I can tell you this," Peavy said, "I've never felt the way I do feel when I put this uniform on, when I walk in this clubhouse, when I step on the field with a group of guys that I'm in here with. I was meant to be on this team, with the Boston Red Sox."
And now the Red Sox badly need him.
They were eight outs away from taking a commanding 2-0 lead before an ugly sequence in Thursday's seventh inning -- when Jonny Gomes' throw home bounced off Jarrod Saltalamacchia's glove and Craig Breslow's throw to third sailed high, allowing two runs to score -- knotted this best-of-seven Series at 1.
Game 3 is a big one.
And Peavy isn't hiding that.
"There's absolutely no excuses tomorrow night," he said. "This is what I've lived for my whole baseball career, to have this opportunity to go out there on the biggest stage and have a chance to help your team win a World Series game and a World Series title. I'm as prepared as I'll ever be."