That decision was made on Saturday, to pitch veteran right-hander Woody Williams in Game 4 instead of Peavy, who had lost Game 1 and would have been working on regular four days' rest. The Padres needed a win on Sunday to force a Game 5 in San Diego, which Peavy would have started.
Instead, Williams, Peavy and the rest of the team quietly packed up on Sunday night for a long winter.
Staked to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, Williams surrendered two in the bottom half of the frame, but then locked with old friend Chris Carpenter in a pitchers' duel into the sixth. St. Louis struck for four runs in that inning off Williams and reliever Cla Meredith and cruised to a 3-1 series win.
"It's disappointing that I couldn't pitch us into [Monday's] game," Williams said. "It wasn't going to be easy. We knew that. Bottom line is they beat us, and so be it."
In 5 1/3 innings, Williams was charged with four earned runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out one, and took the loss in a Padres elimination game for the second straight season. Last year, pitching amid some personal turmoil, Williams surrendered five runs on six hits in a loss to the Cardinals and couldn't make it out of the second inning.
This time, the first inning was a challenge. Williams might have induced an inning-ending double-play grounder by Albert Pujols, but Preston Wilson, who was at first on a one-out single, was running on the pitch and took away that option. Williams then hit Jim Edmonds with a pitch, walked Juan Encarnacion and surrendered a tying two-run single to Ronnie Belliard.
Belliard was caught in a rundown that ended the inning, but the damage was done.
"I'm one pitch away all night," Williams said. "I had two strikes on Edmonds, ended up hitting him. Walked Encarnacion and then Belliard got the hit. All I needed was a ground ball."
The pitch to Belliard was "eight inches off the plate and down," as Williams saw it.
"What can I do?" he said.
"Woody pitched great," Peavy said. "He went a tough six innings and didn't get much help from the bats. We couldn't get the big hit tonight. It's a tough way to go out. In this whole series, we just didn't hit the way we were capable of. We're a lot better team than we showed."
The Padres went 1-for-7 in the game with runners in scoring position, though Russell Branyan did draw a bases-loaded walk and Mike Cameron hit a run-scoring forceout in the first inning. For the series, Padres hitters were 2-for-32 with runners in scoring position.
Peavy's presence on the mound may have done little to spark the Padres bats. But he was part of the decision to go with Williams in Game 4, and at about 10 a.m. Sunday was given the option to travel back to San Diego. Peavy opted to stay.
In deferring to Williams, a man he called "Big Game Woody," Peavy conceded that he was a bit tired. The extra day's rest, he figured, would help.
"I was part of the decision of not starting. We've got to win two games," Peavy said on Sunday afternoon. "We've got a guy [Williams] who's been as big a big-game pitcher as there is. The guy's been outstanding and he deserves the opportunity he's going to get tonight."
Peavy took the loss in Game 1 after allowing 11 hits and five earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. He said he took a dose pack of medication that "kind of knocks down the inflammation and makes you feel probably a little bit better than you should at this time of year."
"I think everybody's body [is tired] at this time of year," Peavy said. "If you've played a full season, you're not running on much, but you do get a little extra momentum. It's kind of a second wind so to speak because of the postseason and all the energy that will be brought to the table.
"But there's no doubt I'm tired. I think I kind of factored into the decision as well."
Williams, a free agent who perhaps has pitched his last game for the Padres, tried after the game to focus on the positives of the team's 2006 season.
"It's hard to look at that right now," he said. "It was just so much fun playing with these guys, the most fun I've ever had in baseball, because it was such an unselfish team."
Several times, he referred to the Padres' future as if he would not be a part.
"I don't know if I will be wearing this uniform again," Williams said. "But I know I will play again. We're just going to keep all of the options open, and hopefully, someone will want to employ my services."