With Schilling in command, weakened Yankees are pushovers for Red Sox
It is, in hindsight, rather humorous to think that among the items Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein packed for their Thanksgiving 2003 visit to the Curt Schilling household was a DVD presentation designed to convince a fly-ball pitcher that he could succeed at a hitter's haven, Fenway Park.
Schilling, in the wake of last night's eight-inning, five-hit, one-run masterpiece in a 9-5 beating of the Yankees, was asked if there's a reason why his home/road splits are so decidedly different.
``Just I'm not consistent," he said. ``No real reason."
Schilling, in six road starts, is 2-2 this season with a 5.30 ERA, 10 home runs allowed, 33 K's, and 8 walks. At home: 4-0, 1.86 ERA, 0 HRs, 25 K's, 1 walk.
Perhaps he needed to come back here, after five difficult starts (2-2, 6.53 ERA), four of which were outside of Fenway, which was packed last night with 36,342 fans. Perhaps, as he put it, his success last night was merely because ``I pitched better."
Before Keith Foulke staged a ninth-inning laser show (5 hits, 4 runs, 2 HRs, 2 doubles), Schilling had the Red Sox on the way to a 9-1 pasting of a Yankee team that, as Schilling put it, ``has been ravaged with some real significant injuries."
The Sox capitalized, putting a hurt on Chien-Ming Wang (6+ innings, 9 hits, 7 runs) and scoring in bunches (four runs in the third inning, three in the seventh, two in the eighth), with David Ortiz and Manny Ramírez knocking in three runs apiece.
But it all began with Schilling, who was thankful to look out and not see the usual Yankee sluggers. How different is this lineup?
``Well, I don't know," Schilling said in response to that question. ``Who's playing right for [Gary] Sheffield?"
``[Melky] Cabrera," a writer answered.
``OK," Schilling said. ``Who's playing for [Hideki] Matsui?
``[Terrence] Long," the writer said.
``OK," Schilling said. ``That's a question you don't need me to answer. That's a drastically different team."
But Schilling still had to cut through batters Nos. 1-7 and he did early, setting a tone. He set down the first eight he faced in 26 pitches, fanning half of them.
His only difficulty came in the third, with two outs, when Cabrera doubled to left and Johnny Damon blooped a lingering splitter to right for a run-scoring single. Derek Jeter then singled to right, advancing Damon to second for Giambi.
Schilling went 0-and-2 to Giambi, who leads the majors in pitches per plate appearance (4.49). And he showed why. He battled back to 3-and-2, fouling off one pitch that Schilling admitted was a genuine mistake.
``I made some mistakes tonight they didn't hammer," Schilling said.
Giambi, who popped up to Mike Lowell on the 10th pitch of the at-bat, said those mistakes were few.
``He was up and down, hitting the corners, in and out," Giambi said. ``Last time he was making a lot of mistakes. He wasn't doing that tonight."
What he did do he did with relative ease. Schilling worked eight innings for just the second time in 10 starts but kept his pitch count under 100 (it was 99) for just the second time. He began the night leading the league in pitches per plate appearance (4.20) and was second in total pitches (1,095), but was economical almost all evening. His inning-by-inning pitch counts: 9-10-25-13-12-13-7-10.
His offense, meanwhile, worked Wang, sending seven men to the plate in the third. Alex Cora made an out before four consecutive Sox reached and scored. Kevin Youkilis worked a seven-pitch walk. Mark Loretta singled to right. Up came Ortiz, and Wang fell behind, 3-and-0.
A basic if unconventional tenet of Sox manager Terry Francona is that to hit on 3-and-0 is not a bad idea at all, if the proper hitter is up in the proper situation. The Sox, to that point, were 4 for 4 on the season when swinging on 3-and-0 counts. Ortiz, given the green light, went down to get a Wang fastball, didn't attempt to overdo it, and sliced it to left center.
``A gorgeous swing," Francona said.
Make it 5 for 5.
``Why take a nice 3-and-0 fastball that potentially might be right down the middle and have to get a slider [next]?" Francona said. ``We have confidence in our hitters' ability to swing at strikes."
Ortiz, who gave the Sox a 2-1 lead with that double, is 10 for 13 on 3-and-0 counts with four doubles, three home runs, and 9 RBIs since joining the Sox.
That brought up Ramírez, who was 1 for 11 in the weekend series in Philadelphia and 4 for his last 27. He fell behind, 0-and-2, but when you have 442 career home runs, you can hit a mistake in almost any count. If not for the wind blowing to right center, Ramírez's blast would have gone to dead center. Instead, it tore through the wind and drifted just a bit, landing a handful of rows deep in the right-center-field bleachers.
Ramírez's eighth blast of the year and 443d of his career made it Sox 4, Yankees 1.
The game felt over at that point, but the Sox kept adding, three in the seventh (all charged to Wang, who didn't get an out in the inning). Willie Harris began the inning by singling to right. Cora, who played a flawless game in the field, turning two double plays and making an Alex-Gonzalez-like play on a ball up the middle early on, executed a clinical drag bunt.
``He gets the bunt down and not only does he get it down he beats it out," Francona said. ``We have a full-fledged rally going."
The Sox went on to score three times (Youkilis RBI double, Ortiz RBI single, Ramírez sacrifice fly).
``In a game like this," Francona said, praising Cora, ``there's just no hesitancy to play him."
Cora, in the eighth, knocked in a run with a single. Harris also accounted for a run with a sacrifice fly.
Those runs didn't seem meaningful until Foulke began giving up loud hits to all fields. Handed a 9-1 lead, he gave up a leadoff single, got two outs, then went homer-homer-double-double.
Yankees-Sox? Somehow this didn't quite feel like it. Felt more like an exhibition at times. And with the Sox having outscored the Yankees, 38-21, this year in winning four of five, the scores and some of the lineups have made these games feel like spring dress rehearsals in Fort Myers or Tampa.
``That team right now is decimated," Schilling said of the Yankees. ``They've lost some very significant people. That's not going to be the same team the next time we see them.
``We have to take advantage of it now."