Schilling seals first save for Sox with 1-2-3 ninth
Theo Epstein was impressed with Curt Schilling's first save with the Red Sox last night, but he was more impressed with his outing Monday night when the general manager thought Schilling's delivery was normal for the first time during his comeback.
''This means at some point we'll be able to stretch him out and get him back into the starting rotation," Epstein said.
To have Schilling return as the ace in the rotation is the ultimate goal, although Bronson Arroyo helped the team last night by pitching seven strong innings in a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Fenway Park.
Embree gone; Graffanino, Hyzdu arriving. F5
Schilling pitched back-to-back days and said he could go a third today if needed (today's series finale is at 1 p.m.). Although Epstein did not know when Schilling would be ''stretched out," for the time being the Sox will take a closer who can ''slam the door," as Kevin Millar put it.
''The more he pitches, we're going to get closer and closer to seeing Schill, and that's what we want," said Sox manager Terry Francona, whose team vaulted back into first place after the Yankees were beaten by the Rangers, 2-1.
On an emotional day when Sox players said goodbye to bullpen mainstay Alan Embree, who was designated for assignment, the Sox seemed to be buoyed by two popular players returning to the clubhouse in Gabe Kapler, who will begin his rehabilitation assignment in Lowell tonight, and outfielder Adam Hyzdu, who was acquired for pitcher Scott Cassidy. Hyzdu, who was with Triple A Portland (Ore.), traveled 8 1/2 hours to make it in time for the game and was a defensive replacement in right field.
''First of all Bronson [Arroyo] is an outstanding human being and a very good pitcher who was outstanding for us tonight," said center fielder Johnny Damon. ''It was also exciting for us to get a couple of guys back in here like Gabe and Adam. It felt like they never left and I think that really helped us stay loose before the game."
Millar didn't think the moves acted as a kick in the pants.
''We don't need a kick in the pants," Millar said. ''We went through a tough slide, losing nine out of 13 here and now we're back on the right track. Bronson pitched great and gave us a big boost and [Mike] Timlin and Schilling did a great job out of the pen to close it out."
While Schilling got his first save since May 3, 1992 in a mop-up role for the Phillies, Timlin might have had the play of the game. After he allowed a leadoff double to Carl Crawford in the eighth inning, he worked out a perfect timing play with second baseman Alex Cora to pick off the speedy Crawford.
''I'm not afraid to throw the ball around the infield," Timlin said. ''Alex is a very good second baseman and experienced player and I saw the glove and I turned around and fired it. That was a big part of the game to have a guy like that lead off with a double and then to get him off the bases like that."
All Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said of Crawford's gaffe is ''He's on his own. The second baseman snuck in there."
Schilling faced the bottom of the Devil Rays' order in the ninth. He fell behind, 2 and 0, to right fielder Jonny Gomes, but came back with a called first strike, a swinging strike to even the count, and a 94-mile-per-hour fastball that sent Gomes back to the dugout.
No. 8 hitter Fernando Cortez fell behind, 0 and 1, before lining out to Manny Ramirez in left field.
The crowd started to sense the save and stood to watch Toby Hall attempt to hit against Schilling, who was throwing hard. On the second pitch, he got Hall to pop up to first to end the game.
Schilling was congratulated by his teammates as the Sox finally ended a bad stretch in which they lost three out of four to the Yankees and the opening game Monday night to the Devil Rays.
The Sox' bats, which provided only three hits Monday, had nine well-timed hits last night. The Sox took a 3-2 lead into the eighth, then provided Schilling with two more runs of support against Tampa Bay reliever Lance Carter.
Ramirez, who earlier hit his 25th home run, walked to lead off and hustled to third on Jason Varitek's grounder through the second base hole. After one out, John Olerud grounded out, scoring Ramirez, then Varitek scored on Bill Mueller's single to right.
The Devil Rays scored in the first inning on singles by Crawford and Jorge Cantu, but Arroyo settled down and didn't allow another hit until the sixth, when Julio Lugo lined a two-out double off the Wall in left-center.
''I was fortunate to get a lot of ground balls on breaking balls and the sinker tonight to a lot of lefties, which helped me out," Arroyo said. ''I was able to keep my pitch count much lower tonight."
The Sox mounted a two-out rally in the first inning. David Ortiz started things off with a hustle double to left-center and advanced to third on a passed ball. Ramirez was hit by a pitch, though the replay showed the ball bounced before hitting him. Batting righthanded against the lefthanded Casey Fossum, Varitek came through with a tying single to left.
Ramirez homered to lead off the fourth inning. It marked the 11th consecutive season the slugger has hit 25 or more homers. Up 2-1, the Sox added one more in the fifth, again a two-out rally in which Damon, Edgar Renteria, and Ortiz hit consecutive singles to make it 3-1.
Arroyo got a tough break in the seventh as the Devil Rays made it a one-run game when Renteria dropped a perfect throw from second baseman Cora, who had made a nice diving stop of Cortez's hard-hit grounder. The error allowed Aubrey Huff, who had started the inning with a single, to score. With runners at first and third after Gomes's single, Arroyo struck out pinch hitter Damon Hollins and escaped further damage when Joey Gathright flied to short center field.