TORONTO -- We have gone beyond explanations, imprecations, lamentations. They are of no use.
Boston Red Sox pitcher Jake Peavy has taken the ball every five days 20 times this season and has as many wins as he has duck boats, World Series rings and Cy Young Awards: one, and that came 88 days before he went to the mound Tuesday night in Rogers Centre and lost again, 7-3 to the Toronto Blue Jays.
You say wins and losses don't define a pitcher? Peavy isn't wired that way. He's too old fashioned for that. ERA, FIP, WAR, K's per 9? He knows all that stuff, but for him, what matters is whether your team is shaking hands at the end of the night, or whether they've carried you off on your shield. Jon Lester is the same way. John Lackey, too.
Twenty times Peavy has taken the ball this season, and he has one win to his name. No other pitcher in the big leagues has made as many starts with as little to show for them.
The Sox have won only five times when Peavy has thrown their first pitch of the night. He has lost nine straight decisions (with six no-decisions). The team has lost his past nine outings, Tuesday's defeat ending a five-game winning streak and interrupting, at least temporarily, talk about a miracle run to October. The other four teams in the AL East won Tuesday night, dropping the Red Sox back into last place.
"It's frustrating to lose," Peavy said. "I'm so sick of sitting here. Sorry, I don't have the best attitude in the world. I try. I promise you, I try. Run support or no run support, it's not fun to lose. The only way to stop that from happening is for me to get better."
Peavy is trapped in a purgatory partially of his own making -- he was the one who threw home run balls to Jose Reyes and Dioner Navarro that broke open a one-run game in the sixth, and he is the one with a 4.72 ERA -- but also one over which he is helpless to control. The Sox came into Tuesday night's game offering him run support unmatched for meagerness in the American League: 2.91 runs per outing. When he left in the seventh inning Tuesday, they'd scored one run for him a night after setting season highs in runs, hits and home runs.
"One of these times his starts have to line up with you scoring 14 runs," reliever Andrew Miller said, "let alone how he's throwing the ball."
Miller had his own version of hell to deal with earlier this season, when he was charged with four walk-off losses in the span of 11 days. Miller survived and is thriving, but he can only imagine what Peavy is enduring.
"It's got to wear you down," Miller said. "Every game he pitches he's got to feel, 'This run is do-or-die.' It creeps into your head, whether its reality or something you control. It enters your head. I know he's frustrated to all ends.
"Jake truly is one of those guys, he doesn't care what his ERA is. He just wants to win. That's his body language, whether it's the players, fans, [media]. We all see that winning is really what he wants to do."
And it is the one thing that has been denied him, going on three months now.
"You can only control what you can control," Miller said. "All he can do is go out there and pitch every fifth day. It'll turn around. It's no different than hitters in a slump, like Dirt [Stephen Drew]. You know it's going to come."
Eight days before the trading deadline, the question now becomes whether that turnaround, if and when it comes, will happen with Peavy still in a Red Sox uniform. He has been traded twice before at the deadline -- once by the San Diego Padres, once by the Chicago White Sox -- and rumors persist that he could be dealt again, especially with Brandon Workman waiting in the wings. The St. Louis Cardinals continue to have some interest, and there was a gaggle of scouts in the house Tuesday night.
He has one start remaining before the deadline. He didn't allow himself to think, he said, that Tuesday night could have been his last outing in a Red Sox uniform.
"I went through a bad stretch for a little bit," he said. "I understand I didn't put the team in a situation to win for about a month. But I feel fine and healthy. I've got a lot of baseball left.
"If it's here, I will figure out a way to win. I promise you that. If I go somewhere else, I expect to do the same. Give everything I have."
Twenty starts, one win. That's a tough way to maintain your sanity.