CHICAGO -- It was hard to tell who had a better night at U.S. Cellular Field on Wednesday, Jake Peavy or his doctor.
It appeared to be a draw as Peavy and surgeon Antony Romeo hugged following Peavy's dominating shutout over the best-hitting team in the American League in the Cleveland Indians. It was only Peavy's second start in his comeback after having his latissimus dorsi muscle reattached in July of last year.
In what appeared to be a mismatch, the White Sox's 1-0 victory moved them nine games behind the AL Central leaders, who also have the best record in baseball. In addition, the Indians entered Wednesday's matchup with an AL-leading .271 team batting average and the most runs scored in the league at 207.
""Obviously, personally, it means the world," Peavy said. "I feel so blessed to have the opportunity, once again, to go out there. For your stuff to come back, especially on a night like tonight when you have the first-place team coming in and win 1-0 against a guy [Indians starter Justin Masterson] who really has had our number, obviously it's personally gratifying, but at the same time you got to put personal matters aside. It was a great win by the boys."
The outing came 10½ months after Peavy's surgery and still 1½ months before his original estimated return date.
Just how improbable was it? The White Sox's coaching staff moved Phil Humber's next scheduled start back a day just so he could sit in the bullpen and be on call in case Peavy wavered.
By the seventh inning, Humber warmed up anyway, not because he thought he might pitch, but because he definitely knew he wouldn't. He went through with his between-start bullpen session right then and there.
"Every day, the injuries come to mind; every time [Peavy] takes the mound you get a feeling in your stomach," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "There's a very good reason today we got Humber to back him up. That's why you push [Humber] back a day because, yeah, we have to protect ourselves and everybody out of the bullpen.
"[Peavy] is taking it on himself to work very hard, but every day he goes to the mound we always have something in the back [of our mind] and hopefully he'll come out of there pretty good."
It couldn't have been better, really. The Indians had just three hits, all singles. Two were from Shin-Soo Choo. The Indians didn't get a runner to second base until Choo singled in the seventh inning and stole a base. Working out of the stretch, something Peavy painstakingly focused on during rehab, he got a foul out and a ground ball to end the threat.
"Throughout the course of the year, a starting pitcher is going to throw his biggest pitches out of the stretch, so it meant the world to me," Peavy said. "I gave up some runs down there out of the stretch, and that's a pride factor. You got a bull's-eye on you, but it all pays off when you're making big pitches up here and getting guys out and win a close one like we did."
It was the second shutout Peavy has thrown for the White Sox in 22 starts, including another 1-0 victory last season at Washington, but this one was more like the Peavy of old.
"This was a completely different feeling, to be healthy and know you have what it takes to ask, 'Hey, this is really my game, let me finish it,'" said Peavy, who had three shutouts with the Padres in 212 starts. "To go out there and have that closer's mentality, you get that experience like that closer has experience and when it's your game, it's even more gratifying. I feel blessed."
Adam Dunn was on the opposite side of Peavy's last shutout. In this one, he supplied the only run on a sacrifice fly in the first inning.
"That's the Jake that I remember," Dunn said. "I said all along he's a competitor, he's a gamer. It looked like his velocity was up tonight. I haven't seen him throw like that since probably two or three years removed. The good thing is it looks like he's got his arm strength back. He's not going to walk anybody so he's just going to make them hit it."
Indeed Peavy didn't have a walk. He finished the night with eight strikeouts. And while Peavy had an obvious sense of triumph afterward, it wasn't like he was shocked by how the night turned out.
"I wish I could tell you yes, but I expect to win," he said. "I didn't know what to expect coming off this surgery, and I don't know how good I can be and if I can get back all the way. This was a lot of what I used to do tonight, but I'm going to grind it out. I can promise you on every fifth day ... I expect to win. And that's the bottom line. No matter if it has to happen tonight, if we have to win 8-5 in Texas six days from now, that's what has to happen."
Although Guillen had Matt Thornton up throwing in the bullpen in the ninth inning, this was Peavy's game to complete.
"He makes the manager's job easy," Guillen said. "That's the point you know what you're doing, you know what you want to do. In my mind I didn't want to take him out, but when he comes over and says, 'Let me finish,' I say, 'We've been waiting for this day for a long time.'"
Doug Padilla covers the White Sox for ESPNChicago.com.