- Jim Caple, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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NEW YORK -- Boston fans must feel as if they all received 50 cc's of marcaine directly to the brain last night.
In the long-anticipated championship rematch with their hated rival, the ace pitcher who was supposed to make the difference this year received an injection of the marcaine numbing agent for a sore ankle and didn't make it to the fourth inning. Their leadoff man struck out four times. The league's best lineup didn't manage a single baserunner until one out in the seventh inning. Their team trailed by eight runs in the seventh inning. Their left fielder bungled another flyball to allow two late runs.
And the Red Sox still almost rallied to win, putting the tying run on third base with two out in the eighth inning, bringing the tying run to the plate with one out in the ninth and forcing the Yankees to use Mariano Rivera just hours after the New York closer flew back from a funeral in Panama.
"We can definitely build off that," center fielder Johnny Damon said after Boston's 10-7 loss to the Yankees in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, otherwise known as Gotterdammerung 2. "They might be shaking their heads, thinking 'It got pretty close pretty quick.' "
True, Boston's ability to trim an 8-0 deficit to an 8-7 score in a span of four outs bodes well. Of far greater concern, however, is Curt Schilling's tender right ankle, and his status for the rest of the series.
Schilling was bothered by a bruise on the ankle earlier in the season but overcame the pain by receiving the marcaine injections before his starts. The ankle flared up again last week however, forcing him to receive further injections, including one before Game 1, and to wear a combination of a brace and tape. He said he had a terrible session in the bullpen before the game.
"Once I realized that I couldn't rear back and get everything out of my pitches," he said, "I concentrated on just making good pitches and hitting spots."
Unfortunately, when Schilling took the mound, he felt the ankle "popping" while he pitched, which he said prevented him from focusing properly on his pitches. It showed. His fastballs were often four or more miles below his normal velocity, and he uncharacteristically missed catcher Jason Varitek's target several times while the Yankees battered him for six hits and six runs in three innings.
Worse, Schilling made no prediction that the ankle would improve for a possible start later in the series. Asked to estimate his chances of returning, he replied, "I have no feeling. We'll see how it feels tomorrow."
"He just didn't look right," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "We were trying to give him every opportunity because his heart's so big and he has the ability to reach back, and we talked when he came out. I don't think he was hurting; he just wasn't right, wasn't driving and we'll talk later."
It wasn't supposed to go this way. Schilling is the pitcher the Red Sox acquired last winter to provide the missing part that is supposed to help them finally beat the Yankees, reach the World Series and win it. He was superb all season long, winning 21 games with a 3.26 ERA. A proven postseason starter, he and Pedro Martinez were supposed to provide the 1-2 punch that he and Randy Johnson did while beating the Yankees during the 2001 World Series.
The Yankees have been beating up on the Red Sox for almost 85 years -- the headline on the back page of the New York Daily News read, "Come to Daddy: Pedro, Bosox pop in for annual spanking." But with Schilling, Pedro and the potent offense, for once Boston fans entered a series against New York wondering how they were going to win it rather than worrying how they were going to lose it.
Instead, they now have to worry about whether the man who was supposed to make the difference will be able to make another start. "You're getting way, way ahead of me," Francona said when asked whether it was a possibility the Red Sox would have to start Derek Lowe (14-12, 5.42 ERA) in Schilling's place.
Well, people often are way, way ahead of Boston managers in the postseason, particularly last year in Game 7 when Grady Little stayed far, far too long with Pedro.
The key question is how long Pedro will be able to pitch effectively in Game 2 against a team that whipped him his past two starts. That included his infamous Sept. 24 loss that prompted him to say "The Yankees are my Daddy," thereby providing New York t-shirt vendors with a new catch phrase to replace the tired and now horribly out-of-date "Nomar Sucks!"
The Yankees broke to such a huge early lead against Schilling and Yankees starter Mike Mussina was so dominant that the "Who's Your Daddy" and "We Want Pedro" chants rocked Yankee Stadium a full four innings ahead of schedule. Pedro showed little reaction to the chants, sitting glumly in the dugout in his gray sweatshirt.
Pedro has come through repeatedly during his Red Sox career and with Schilling questionable, he'll have to do so again.
"I see a win from him," said Damon, who struck out four times in as many at-bats. "And if he doesn't, we've got a tough road ahead of us."
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
Curt Schilling had no feeling in his ankle after Game 1, which puts the Red Sox in a ton of trouble, Jim Caple writes.