SAN DIEGO -- Last year, the Padres barely made it out of the regular season to capture the National League West title. With their starting pitching questionable, the team's hopes against the Cardinals rested with their ace, Jake Peavy, who needed to give them a jump-start in the series. This year, the Cardinals had to claw their way to the NL Central title, and with the starting rotation in shaky shape, they're placing all their hopes on Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter in Tuesday's Game 1 of their NL Division Series at PETCO Park. Peavy didn't win last year. He didn't make it through the fifth inning against Carpenter, leaving with the score 8-0, having allowed all eight runs on eight hits. The Cardinals swept the best-of-five series.
"I think Peavy is just as capable of dominating that game as Chris is," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Monday. "No matter what happens in [Tuesday's] game, I expect a tough competition in the next four." Last year, Peavy wasn't healthy. As it turned out, he was pitching with a cracked rib suffered during the celebration after the Padres won the division title less than a week before his first playoff start. Carpenter and Peavy are both healthy this year, as far as either manager knows. "I'm feeling a lot better than I was last year," Peavy said. "No excuses. This time out, I feel as good as I've felt all year. The first half was a little bit of a struggle, but the second half, I've been healthy, making my starts without any interference physically. Mentally I'm as good as I can be going into the start." Last year, Padres manager Bruce Bochy didn't know that Peavy was ailing. Peavy hid the injury from everyone except the team trainer, who treated him in the days before the game. This year, Bochy said Peavy's health is a major consideration. The right-hander had some shoulder soreness and slipped from 13-7 with a 2.88 ERA to 11-14 with a 4.09 ERA. "You're right," Bochy said. "To have your guy healthy, it's so important for your club. And last year we didn't. But with Jake, we always wait until right before the game to make sure he's OK. We're trying to get through tonight with him."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.