Not too many years ago, Tuesday night's probable starters would have been a pitching matchup of equals.
The White Sox' Jake Peavy vs. the Tigers' Justin Verlander … former Cy Young Award winner vs. current Cy Young favorite … ace vs. ace …
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"There was a time when I think it might be tit for tat," Peavy said Monday night at Comiskey Park. "But (now) I can't promise you anything."
Injuries have forced Peavy into that rare admission from a big-time athlete. All he can do is look out at Verlander on the mound, see what he himself used to be and hope that he somehow can will the Sox to victory.
Peavy was relieved of a measure of pressure when the Sox beat the Tigers 6-3 in the first of their three-game series.
The Sox moved within 3½ games of first-place Detroit and now if Peavy can outduel Verlander on Tuesday night, the heat might start shifting onto the Tigers.
"I expect (Verlander) to be very good (Tuesday night)," Peavy said. "I know I'm going to have to be very good to have a chance to win this game."
Then Peavy barked a bit of his old-time defiance by saying, "I expect to show up."
This is the kind of game for which the Sox acquired Peavy in 2009. The expectation was that Peavy would match up against baseball's best like the Verlanders and CC Sabathias, the Felix Hernandezes and Josh Becketts.
"If Peavy is healthy," Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said, "he's a bad (man). He's not healthy. You can't be a bad (man) when you're not healthy."
Guillen added that when all of Peavy's body parts are medically sound, he would put him up against any opposing pitcher because his stuff is tough.
The problem is that effects linger from Peavy's stints on the disabled list in each of the three seasons since he arrived here.
Will Peavy ever be what he was, especially later this season when the Sox need him down the stretch of what is expected to be a contentious pennant race?
"I hope so," Guillen said.
So it's possible?
"That's my wish," the Sox' manager said.
All Guillen can ask of Peavy Tuesday night is to keep the Sox close enough to have a shot at upsetting Verlander, who will pit a 13-5 record and 2.24 ERA against his counterpart's 4-4 and 5.19.
"We have to bring our best stuff because we're going to see the best stuff out of (Verlander)," Guillen said.
The Sox have done well against the Tigers' all-star during his career. Less than two weeks ago they hit him up for 5 runs and 7 hits over 6 innings of an 8-2 victory.
"You know," Peavy said, "that start we got 5 or 6 off him in Detroit is probably not going to happen again. He's going to make adjustments."
Peavy is having to adjust to not being the pitcher he once was. He's going to have to throw what he has at the Tigers, hope it's enough to baffle them and wait for his teammates to solve Verlander at least a little.
"I'm going to have an absolute blast getting to compete against one of the game's best," Peavy said.
How many pitchers uttered those words a few years ago when preparing to face Peavy?
"If you can't get excited about this," he said, "you can't get excited."
It'll be really exciting for the Sox if Jake Peavy can rediscover some of his old self to throw at Justin Verlander on Tuesday night.