All-around frustrating day for Peavy

Padres drop series finale to Red Sox

SAN DIEGO -- It was an out-of-character day for Padres pitcher Jake Peavy, who twice ended up flat on his stomach trying to make plays to get Red Sox hitters out on a sun-splashed Sunday at PETCO Park.

But after seeing a handful of what he considered well-executed pitches end up falling in for hits, Peavy was certainly willing to try just about anything to get outs against baseball's best team.

"The dirtiest guy today," San Diego manager Bud Black said, "was our starting pitcher."

And, likely, the most frustrated.

Peavy was unsuccessful in his bid to become the first 10-game winner in the National League, as the Red Sox held on for a 4-2 victory before a sold-out crowd of 44,449, the third sell-out in as many days.

In a much-anticipated matchup between two of the top pitchers in the Major Leagues, Boston's Josh Beckett (11-1) allowed only six hits over eight innings with eight strikeouts and one walk to best Peavy (9-2).

Statistically, the results for Peavy weren't alarming. He allowed all three runs in the third inning and left after five fitful innings because of a high pitch count (111) rather than simple ineffectiveness.

That third inning proved to be his undoing, although Peavy had already worked himself into quite a sweat by the time the Red Sox (48-26) sent eight batters to the plate in a frame that saw him throw 38 pitches to get three outs.

It was the second inning that saw Peavy lose his balance and fall to the infield dirt after covering first base on J.D. Drew's ground ball. Then, two batters later, Peavy scrambled toward third base, diving for a return throw from the outfield on Jason Varitek's twisting fly ball that resulted in a triple.

"The play that typifies Jake is the play at third," Black said. "The head-first dive to get a 220-pound catcher [Varitek]. That's the way he plays."

Peavy escaped that inning unscathed, though he wasn't nearly as fortunate in that fateful third inning, though only one of the five hits he allowed in the inning was considered to be well-struck by Black and Peavy's standards.

With one out, Coco Crisp bounced a ball up the middle. Alex Cora followed with what was the only hard-hit single of the inning, a line drive to right field. That's when things got interesting, as David Ortiz rolled a seeing-eye single through the right side to score the first run.

After Manny Ramirez drove in another run with a sacrifice fly, Drew shattered his bat on a ground ball to the right side that Geoff Blum bobbled after ranging far to his left. Peavy was late in covering the bag anyway, and Drew was given a hit.

Finally, Mike Lowell dropped a soft opposite-field single into right field for a 3-0 lead, as Peavy -- his uniform stained in dirt -- retreated to the room outside the clubhouse that has the team's video equipment. Just as he thought, the pitches he had made weren't that bad.

"It was funny -- for me to look back and see that I made some quality pitches," said Peavy, who emerged from the game with a sore knee. "I just didn't have anything to show for it. The balls they hit, they were right where I wanted them. It's just one of those days."

The same could be said for Beckett, as this start was eerily similar to many of his other impressive performances this season. His fastball had life in the strike zone, as he often ran the ball up to the plate in the mid-90s. That much, Black was ready for. But what he wasn't so prepared to see was Beckett's crisp breaking stuff, especially the devastating pitches he threw in fastball counts.

"He was good today. I hadn't faced him in a while and his stuff has gotten a lot better. He just kept it on us with some of his pitches," Padres catcher Michael Barrett said. "[He was] moving his fastball around, and he had a good sinker today, which I don't remember him throwing much when I faced him in the past. So overall he had quality stuff."

Even when Beckett was touched for two runs during the fifth inning, when pinch-hitter Terrmel Sledge got into a fastball that resulted in two runs, cutting Boston's lead to 3-2, Beckett quickly reverted back to old form, leaving the tying run stranded on third by getting Barrett to ground out and striking out Adrian Gonzalez -- the Padres' best hitter -- with a nasty curveball.

"I faced Beckett when he was with Florida, and he was a straight pyro," Blum said. "He just came at you with his fastball and didn't have much of a breaking ball, and he didn't have that changeup he showed me in his first at-bat. Nothing compares to stepping in and seeing it.

"He's good. You just take that eighth inning he pitched. He still had the velocity in the ball; he was hitting the spots and went to his breaking ball when he needed to and got some punch-outs."

These are normally the kinds of words uttered from the mouths of opposing players after facing Peavy, who saw his ERA creep up to 2.14 following Sunday's outing. But nothing came easy for him, his jersey showed as much as did the result in that fateful third inning.

"He is obviously, if not the best, one of the best in the game," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "We did make him work hard. Fortunately for us, one of the other best [Beckett] is on our team."

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.