Schilling strengthens reputation as Mr. Clutch
Originally Published: October 7, 2007By Eric Neel | ESPN.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The headline is written in crooked numbers -- seven stunning runs in the eighth inning of a 9-1 Red Sox victory.The headline is yet another surprising division series sweep, this one sending the Red Sox on through to the American League Championship Series. But beneath the headline is an old familiar baseball song, a story as old as the hills. Beneath the headline, the heart of this pasting full of offensive fireworks was Curt Schilling in the postseason being Curt Schilling in the postseason.
Before the game, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said that "fastball command" is the key to Schilling's approach. Once upon a time, that meant cranking and locating a plus fastball. "As a young pitcher, I had seven or eight more miles an hour than I do now," Schilling said after the win. "It's different now, a different approach." On Sunday, that approach meant keeping the ball low and relentlessly working in and out. "In and out, up and down, both sides of the plate," Boston manager Terry Francona said afterward. "He really pitched today." Where Francona saw something dogged, workmanlike in what Schilling did, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein saw something sublime. "He was an artist out there," Epstein said, his shirt soaked from a bucket of ice water Manny Ramirez rained down on him in the celebratory Boston clubhouse. "I think he wills himself toward perfect execution. It's mentally very tough to do, and he does it. Over and over again." Schilling's performance was all the more dazzling next to the floodgate lines of Angels relievers Justin Speier and Darren Oliver, who combined, in a single inning, to give up five hits and six runs on 31 pitches. The Red Sox's lineup -- from Dustin Pedroia (who doubled in the inning) to hot-hitting Mike Lowell (who singled and drove in two in the inning) -- can do that to a man, can beat him up, make him look sadly human. Jered Weaver had "good stuff," Lowell said, but he couldn't avoid getting touched up by Boston's bats either. In the fourth inning, David Ortiz and Ramirez hit back-to-back home runs off him, and by the sixth inning, he was gone from the game. "We were able to put together professional at-bats against him," Lowell said. "And maybe they had to take him out of there sooner than they would have liked."
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesCurt Schilling is 9-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 17 career postseason starts.
I think he wills himself toward perfect execution. It's mentally very tough to do, and he does it. Over and over again.
--Boston GM Theo Epstein