PHOENIX (AP) -A year ago, Jake Peavy pitched with a sore shoulder and went 11-14 with a 4.09 ERA.
The shoulder is no longer giving him trouble. And that's trouble for NL hitters.
San Diego's 25-year-old ace is 3-0 with a 1.60 ERA - and he earned no decision in perhaps the finest game of his five-year career Wednesday night. In a 3-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Peavy came within one strike of tying Tom Seaver's major league record of 10 consecutive strikeouts. He finished with 16 strikeouts, tying the club record he set last May.
``Obviously, I'm feeling a whole lot better these days than I did in those days,'' Peavy said, referring to last year.
``I'm not going to have many better nights with everything,'' said Peavy, who has 36 strikeouts in 32 1-3 innings. ``I had a good fastball and a good cutter and a good slider. If I'm able to have three pitches I feel comfortable with, you don't have those nights very often.''
But Peavy seems to have them more than most.
This year, he's started five times, allowing no runs twice and one run twice.
On Wednesday night, Peavy did everything he could to earn his fourth victory, shutting out the Diamondbacks on two hits through seven innings, only to watch his normally reliable bullpen blow the game. Arizona's Stephen Drew won it with a two-run, two-out homer off closer Trevor Hoffman in the ninth.
``Peavy pitches probably one of the best games he's ever pitched in his life, and we end up winning the game,'' Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. ``It was that good. Not just exclusively to the right-handers either. He had great command on that outside corner.''
After being carved up by Peavy, the Diamondbacks almost were relieved to see Hoffman, baseball's career saves leader.
``(Peavy) was just getting us off balance and throwing his game,'' Drew said.
Peavy struck out the side in the second, third and fourth innings. The first eight were swinging - the Diamondbacks flailed helplessly at an assortment of darting fastballs and diving breaking pitches.
Seaver set the consecutive strikeouts record for the New York Mets against San Diego on April 22, 1970, when he struck out his final 10 batters - and 19 in all.
Peavy fell four short of the strikeout record for a nine-inning game - 20, shared by Roger Clemens (twice) and Kerry Wood.
Peavy struck out every man in the lineup at least once and got rookies Chris Young and Carlos Quentin three times apiece.
``I didn't have any hard, hard innings,'' Peavy said. ``I feel pretty good right now, even after that.''
A 15th-round pick by San Diego in 1999, Peavy took his time developing. He was 18-18 after his first two years in the rotation, but he blossomed in 2004, with a 15-6 record and a major league-best 2.27 ERA.
A year later, Peavy went 13-7 with a 2.88 ERA. He led the NL with 216 strikeouts.
Shoulder problems slowed Peavy last season, although he still managed to strike out 215 in 202 1-3 innings. Now, with a healthy shoulder, he can use all his pitches.
``When the slider's feeling good, I'm going to get people to swing and miss a lot, I guess,'' Peavy said.

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