75-pitch hurdle trips up Peavy again

CHICAGO -- Jake Peavy was left to wander alone toward the later innings and the White Chicago White Sox were burned because of it.

The Detroit Tigers scored three times against Peavy in the sixth inning to take their first lead of the game. The White Sox did tie it again, but the Tigers scored a run in the eighth for a 5-4 victory in a key series among two of the top teams in the American League Central.

Entering the game, opponents had a .457 batting average (21-for-46) against Peavy from pitch 76 to 100. In the sixth inning of games this season, Peavy entered with a 9.82 ERA.

On Monday he tripped the 75-pitch marker in the fifth inning, finishing the night with 111 pitches over six innings.

“Yeah, I ran out of gas a little bit,” Peavy said when asked about the sixth inning Tuesday. “I went as hard as I could for as long as I could. That’s what I used to do. I certainly didn’t have good stuff the later the game went.”

At the surface, the logical move would seem to be that Peavy is removed after 75 pitches. But should the White Sox’s decision be so black and white? Peavy made quick work of the fifth inning but got into trouble quickly in the sixth.

“Right now I worry about innings more than pitches,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “Right now I don’t think is the time for us to worry about guys throwing too many pitches because of the way we use the bullpen.”

In other words, Guillen is hesitant to ride his bullpen hard with two months still to go in the season. That also means there is only two months for Peavy to get his arm strength back and stopping at 75 pitches each outing would hinder that progress.

Still, the biggest issue is that this team needs Peavy to return to being the ace he was in the past. It might sound like wishful thinking from a guy who underwent a surgery last summer that no pitcher had ever experienced.

But without an ace the likes of Tim Lincecum, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay, the White Sox don’t figure to stand a chance even if they do make the postseason. Peavy has been that in the past, and part of their plan seems to require Peavy to regain his strength in the second half.

The White Sox need Peavy to work through his problems that crop up at pitch No. 75 and at inning No. 6. Treating Peavy like a 19-year-old kid isn’t going to get them to where they need to go.

“It’s tough, no doubt about it,” Peavy said. “We knew what tonight meant. We beat [Justin] Verlander tonight and we have a chance to sweep those guys tomorrow. Tomorrow it turns back on us. We have to find a way to win tomorrow’s game. Tonight would have been huge, there’s no doubt. It’s huge for them, knowing they are going to get out of town with at least a 3½-game lead.”