Five batters into his start, the Padres' ace found himself trying just about anything to get Scott Rolen out. He eventually did, but at the cost of 14 pitches, which left Peavy reeling.
"In this kind of weather and environment, you don't want to throw as many pitches as I did right out of the chute," Peavy said afterwards. "You try not to show him everything. It was definitely a battle."
Peavy was referring to his epic duel with Rolen that ended in a routine infield popup to Geoff Blum at second base, though he could certainly have been talking about the arduous nature of his six-inning scoreless stint that helped the Padres to a 4-0 victory over the Cardinals.
"I thought Jake threw great and that was against a lineup that had great at-bats, worked him, foul balls, fought off good pitches and made him work," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "He made some pitches throughout the game to keep the shutout intact."
For the seventh time this season, Peavy won a game in a start that immediately followed a Padres loss.
"You need a guy to stop the bleeding," Padres catcher Josh Bard said. "He's done that for us."
In doing so, the right-hander -- who may have reasserted himself as a front-runner for the Cy Young -- improved to 6-0 with a 0.88 ERA on the road while extending his scoreless innings streak to 19.
Peavy (12-5) did not always have the explosive fastball that he's shown at times during the season, nor could he lean on that sharp, nasty slider when he absolutely had to. But he pitched smart after the Rolen at-bat threatened to drive up his pitch count early.
"I settled down and had some decent innings," Peavy said. "It was a start where I had to battle. I didn't have my best stuff. They have a lot of quality bats and that's what good teams do, they wear down the starter."
Not Peavy, though. He needed 104 pitches to get through six innings before turning the ball -- and the lead, thanks to Bard's RBI single in the seventh inning -- over to the bullpen which got shutout innings from Cla Meredith, Heath Bell and Doug Brocail as the Padres (61-51) pulled to within a game of first-place Arizona in the National League West.
A three-run ninth inning by the Padres off Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen gave San Diego some breathing room and gave closer Trevor Hoffman -- who had been warming up in the bullpen -- a night off.
Newcomer Scott Hairston had a two-run triple in the ninth inning off Isringhausen that broke open the game. Hairston, who has been limited in activity after fouling a ball off his left foot Saturday, has knocked in seven runs in his first nine games as a Padre.
"He's done a great job," Black said. "That was a clutch hit when we needed the most, to expand the lead. He got a fastball out over the plate and drove it the other way. I think that's when he's at his best, when he uses the whole field."
But it can be argued that the big hit of the game for the Padres came two innings earlier when Bard jumped on a first-pitch fastball down and in from Cardinals starter Anthony Reyes (1-11), driving it into right field to score Rob Mackowiak, who singled with one out in the inning.
"That's something we've struggled at as a team," Bard said of getting hits with runners in scoring position. "I saw that the hole was open so I looked to pull the ball. It's a game of inches."
Not that anyone has to tell Peavy, who allowed three hits with five strikeouts and two walks.
Peavy got the first two hitters in the first inning out quickly before issuing a walk to Albert Pujols. Pujols then lumbered to third base on Jim Edmonds' opposite-field hit to left field. That brought up Rolen.
Peavy got two quick strikes on the Cardinals third baseman before he took a slider away for a ball. Then came two more foul balls followed by two balls. Then came a procession of six fouls balls before Rolen popped out to Blum with Pujols stranded at third base.
"That was an incredible first inning," Black said. "That was one of the best at-bats we've seen this year. Against the caliber pitcher of Jake, every pitch was a great battle."
Peavy has now won his last three starts and, with Chris Young -- the National League's ERA leader -- set to come off the disabled list on Thursday, the right-hander thinks the timing is right for the Padres to make a push over the final seven weeks of the season.
"I just want to be good for this team, especially with CY out," Peavy said. "It will be a shot in the arm to get him back. I hope me and him get rolling on one of those streaks I know we can get on and get to the playoffs."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.