Schilling makes complete-game shutout of Cards look easy
Updated: Wednesday October 10, 2001 8:31 AM
By Stephen Cannella, Sports Illustrated
PHOENIX -- Pitchers, especially those who have been in the big leagues for 14 seasons and have won 132 games, know how they should feel before a game, and less than a half-hour before the Diamondbacks and Cardinals took the field for Game 1 of the Division Series, Curt Schilling thought something wasn't right.
"I was a little leery coming out of the bullpen before the game," Arizona catcher Damian Miller said. "Curt said he didn't feel that great."
Let's hope word of Schilling's pregame nervousness doesn't get back to the Cardinals, who would surely rather believe the pitcher who made them look feeble was at the top of his game.
What might Schilling have done to St. Louis if he had felt good during warmups? The right-hander blew away the Cardinals in Game 1, allowing three hits and striking out nine in a dominating complete-game shutout.
It almost looked easy: Schilling didn't allow a runner past second base, his split-fingered fastball was vicious, and in the ninth inning he was still throwing 97 mph. He wrapped things up in an efficient 101 pitches. And he did it all with a bothersome right hip that stiffened up early in the game and sent him scurrying to work with the trainer between innings.
"He was masterful," said St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, whose own starter, Matt Morris, allowed a single run in seven innings. "Both guys were great. Curt was a little bit greater."
In the days leading up to Game 1, Schilling spoke about the way players' reputations are cemented at this time of year, about how the postseason was when big-money, big-name players need to lead their teams. After Tuesday's performance, he can consider his good name secure.
In five career starts, his postseason ERA is 2.01. But his first four starts are ancient history -- they came in 1993, when Schilling was a Phillie. Schilling is a different pitcher now, one who's pitching with focus and purpose that border on maniacal.
"Curt is so focused, during the game he can put his mind in places I'd rather not interfere," said Arizona manager Bob Brenly. "I just stay out of his way."
"This was vastly different from my first time in the playoffs," Schilling said. "Up until the time, I started throwing in the bullpen I was very calm and relaxed. I tried to keep as normal a routine as possible."
That meant being as well-prepared for his outing as any other pitcher in the game. Schilling spent Monday night watching video of the Cardinals' hitters -- no one is a more meticulous film student -- and going over the notes he keeps on everyone he faces. He also went over hitters' tendencies with John Vukovich, one of his coaches when he was in Philadelphia.
As usual, Schilling's game plan was superb, and he executed it perfectly.
"It was like he knew when we were swinging, and he'd throw the ball out of the zone," La Russa said. "When we were taking, he'd throw it right over the plate."
He also dug a huge crater for the Cardinals, who must somehow resuscitate their offense and climb back into the series against Randy Johnson in Game 2.
Before Game 1, Johnson talked about how much fun he had this year, saying he enjoyed sharing the spotlight and the pressure of carrying the team with Schilling. It was nice, the Unit said, not to feel the full responsibility of being the only go-to pitcher.
Schilling eased Johnson's load by winning 22 games and having the best season of his career. On Tuesday, he set the tone for this series.
"It's going to be a great series," he said. "There are going to be some heroes made over the next couple days."
Right now, he's candidate No. 1.