Still bringing it
Schilling in command as he pitches Red Sox to sweep
Posted: Sunday October 7, 2007 8:36PM; Updated: Monday October 8, 2007 2:10AM
ANAHEIM -- He is no longer a menacing, made-for-October fireballer, but Curt Schilling, it turns out, can still bring it. "Remarkable," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein after Schilling's virtuoso seven-inning performance in Game 3 of the AL Division Series in Anaheim. "His style has changed but his postseason results haven't. He has a smaller margin for error than ever, but he still went out there and did it."
After silencing the Angels offense on Sunday afternoon at a sun-rinsed Angel Stadium, Schilling showed that, at 40, he's still the big-game pitcher the Red Sox need him to be to win their second World Series in four years. With his fastball only occasionally hitting the low 90s on the radar gun -- for most of the afternoon his heater topped out at 88, 89 mph -- Schilling shut down the Angels in his first postseason start since the Bloody Sock game in 2004. Schilling, who has excelled since he took pitching coach John Farrell's tip to alter his grip on his changeup three weeks ago, threw 100 pitches---76 for strikes---for the first time since June 7.
"I looked up in the sixth inning and he had thrown 15 balls -- and about nine of those were intentional on his part," Epstein, a Bud Light in hand as he stood in the Korbel-soaked Red Sox clubhouse, marveled.
"He was on his game," said Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick. "He threw a lot of first-pitch strikes and got ahead of us, and he let their defense play."
Said Angels outfielder Reggie Willits, "His control was great. Everything he threw was on the corners."
Appropriately, Journey's Don't Stop Believing blared on stadium speakers in the fourth inning: like it did for Tony Soprano, the end came suddenly for the Angels. Anaheim scored four runs and managed six extra-base hits over three games against the Red Sox. And forget A-Rod's postseason failures: Vladimir Guerrero managed just two singles in 11 plate appearances, and now has just one extra base hit in 60 career playoff at-bats.
The Red Sox advance to the ALCS firing on all cylinders, and Epstein isn't concerned about the four-day layoff that awaits his team before the next round commences on Friday. "We have a lot of guys for whom the season is a grind," he said. "They're professional enough to maintain their sharpness. Our guys have pretty good games after off days, so it's not something I worry about. In fact, it gives our bullpen maximum opportunity to be on their game, which is huge."
Whether it's the Yankees or Indians who come to Fenway on Friday, Red Sox pitchers will face a far better lineup in the next round. But with their old ace back in form, Boston looks like a juggernaut. "When their pitchers are on, they're tough to beat," said Angels leftfielder Garrett Anderson. "But Cleveland's a very good team too. They've got two very good pitchers of their own. It's going to be interesting."