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Jake Peavy picks up fourth victory, is confident Sox can be contenders

Jake Peavy

Jake Peavy

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Updated: June 11, 2012 10:25AM

CLEVELAND — Five weeks into the season, Jake Peavy has a handle on who the White Sox are. He sees a team with enough talent to be a postseason contender, but one that must scratch, claw and cash in on scoring opportunities.

And his fellow pitchers will have to make the big pitch at crunch time.

The Sox (15-17) have lost 11 games by one or two runs, including their last five defeats, and how they fare in close games will probably determine whether they’re in contention for a playoff spot.

“The thing that’s frustrating about this is we’ve been in almost every game to the last pitch,’’ said Peavy, who improved to 4-1 and lowered his ERA to 1.89 with another strong seven-inning start in the Sox’ 8-1 victory Wednesday against the Indians. “We have to find a way to push through, to get a big hit, make a big pitch and make those ballgames wins and not one-run losses.

“Look back over that tough [3-11] stretch. There’s been a guy on third with one out, and we didn’t get it done, and a couple of times where we had to make big pitches to get out of an inning with two outs — myself included. In Detroit [on Friday], if I get Miguel Cabrera, we win that ballgame, hands down. For us to have a chance to win, we can’t afford to beat ourselves and not make those big pitches, not get that guy in from third. We’re not a big powerhouse like Texas or New York that can bang it out and overcome not playing the game fundamentally correct.’’

Healthy for the first time since the Sox traded for him, Peavy was the American League pitcher of the month in April. He called this season the most gratifying of his career.

He likes the clubhouse, he sees a bright future for the Sox and he wouldn’t mind being a part of it. Because of a $22 million option for next season (the Sox have a $4 million buyout), Peavy also knows he could be gone by midseason if the Sox are out of contention. He might even go if the Sox are borderline contenders if attendance doesn’t pick up. General manager Ken Williams could cash him in as a valuable trade chip rather than risk losing him as a free agent or to injury.

“If I get traded, I’ve been through it before, and I’ll go to another team and go start by start,’’ he said.

“I’m not worried about that one bit, if I get traded. After all I’ve been through in the game, the only thing I’m worried about is my next start. That sounds cliché, but that’s where every bit of my focus is.’’

Peavy wants to play on a winner, and he believes it could be the Sox if Adam Dunn and Alex Rios continue to hit, if Chris Sale stays healthy and if a few more ifs go the Sox’ way.

“I want to play where there’s a chance to win; this team is not far off,’’ Peavy said. “A lot of good things are happening here, and I can’t see many other places that would be more appealing to me, even this winter, if the situation was right to come back here. The young pieces are going to get experience. Dunn is going to grow with another year in the league, [Paul] Konerko has another year. We’re not far off.’’

The Sox are 1-2 against Texas and 3-3 against Detroit.

“We compete with the best teams in baseball — with Detroit, we played man for man with that team,’’ Peavy said.

“To win here after what I’ve been through would be more gratifying than going somewhere else and having a season to remember.’’

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