Schilling coasts in Series opener, available for Game 4
Updated: Sunday October 28, 2001 3:18 AM
By Stephen Cannella, Sports Illustrated
PHOENIX -- The roof was open at Bank One Ballpark on Saturday night, so Curt Schilling was standing in the full heat of the late-afternoon Arizona sun when he fired the first pitch of Game 1.
Still, we can't be sure he broke a sweat in shutting down the Yankees -- that might have been water from the ice pack on his shoulder that dampened his T-shirt after the game.
That the Diamondbacks won the first World Series game in their franchise history wasn't a huge surprise. Schilling, after all, is on one of the most dominating postseason rolls of any pitcher in history. It was the way they won it that raised eyebrows and possibly changed the complexion of the entire series.
The Diamondbacks scored a total of eight runs in Schilling's first three starts this postseason. They exploded for nine in Game 1, and to Schilling's benefit the runs came early.
After three innings Arizona led 5-1, and at that point everyone could have packed up and gone out to get a head start on the Phoenix nightlife. Yankees manager Joe Torre acknowledged as much after the game.
"It's tough to tell because the game got out of hand," Torre said when asked to evaluate Schilling's game plan. "I say out of hand. 5-1 is out of hand with him on the mound."
Indeed, Schilling put himself on cruise control after the third inning and breezed through the Yankee lineup with all the effort he might put into a bullpen session between starts.
He pounded the strike zone: From the fourth through the seventh innings he threw first-pitch strikes to nine of the 14 hitters he faced and went to a three-ball count just twice (when David Justice fouled off four two-strike pitches in the sixth, and when he walked Jorge Posada in the seventh). The early lead was a lucky break, because Schilling didn't feel as sharp as usual.
"He didn't have his great stuff tonight," catcher Damian Miller said. "He struggled with his location of his fastball a little bit. He threw lot of offspeed stuff behind in the count."
By the fifth Schilling had the luxury of an eight-run lead, and little reason to reach for the "second gear" he says allowed him to throw 97 mph heat late in the game. The result was a relatively painless 102-pitch night (one run and eight strikeouts in seven innings) that, after nail-biting outings in the Division Series and NLCS, must have felt like an evening spent rocking on the front porch.
"I don't think there's ever a stress-free outing," said Arizona manager Bob Brenly, "but he had as close to that as you can get."
The impact of Schilling's low-energy night could be huge.
Coming into the series the Yankees knew they could win a world championship even if Schilling and Randy Johnson were their fearsome selves -- all New York had to do was steal one of their four starts and beat up on the rest of Arizona's suspect staff. That task may be more complicated now.
Brenly and Schilling both hinted after Game 1 that the right-hander would come back to pitch Game 4 on Wednesday on three days rest. Suddenly there's more pressure on the Yankees to beat the Big Unit in Game 2: The prospect of them coming back to tie the series at two games apiece is much dimmer if Schilling is ready to take the ball Wednesday night.
"I'm not possibly available for Game 4," said Schilling, who also added he can't remember ever having pitched on three days rest. "I'm available. I'm preparing as if I'm going to pitch Game 4."