More Heat In Arizona
Curt Schilling joins Randy Johnson to give the Diamondbacks a daunting fireballing duo
As the doggerel days of August drag on, as the evening temperature outside Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix hovers at 110� and the Arizona hitters futilely flail for runs, the Diamondbacks' new ace pitching combination of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling practically begs the sun-stroked brain to produce some Spahn-and-Sain verse. Maybe:
Big Unit and Schilling
And three days of chilling
Randy and Curt
Treat batters like dirt
They are the odd couplet. There's Johnson, a 6'10", left-handed package of scary who recedes into the background after each start, and the 6'4", righthanded Schilling, a less expressive pitcher on the mound but a man who fills any room he enters. Both are classic power pitchers, but they have different "out" pitches to complement their high-octane fastballs—Johnson a slider, Schilling a splitter. They share a sense of responsibility to themselves and to their team that surpasses even their combined career average of 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings. "Rather than shrinking from the notion that they are The Guy, they embrace it," says Arizona general manager Joe Garagiola Jr., who obtained Schilling on July 26. At the time, the Diamondbacks were 39-39 in games started by someone other than Johnson but still were 12 games over .500 and in first place in the National League West thanks to the Big Unit, who was 15-3 with a 2.16 ERA.
Arizona is in the midst of a 30-game stretch in which Johnson and Schilling are scheduled to get 14 starts between them, but not even they always wax poetic. Last Friday, Johnson simply got waxed, failing to get out of the fourth inning, his pitch count skyrocketing in a 6-1 loss to the Mets. Since word leaked on July 25 of the impending trade for Schilling—Arizona would send four players to the Phillies for him—Johnson through Sunday had endured his poorest stretch of the year. He walked seven batters in 5? innings in a loss to St. Louis and then threw 145 pitches in seven innings on July 30 against the Marlins, in a game the Arizona bullpen would blow in the eighth, before his loss to the Mets.
As he watched the bespoiling of Johnson's handiwork in Florida two days after his own one-run-in-eight-innings Diamondbacks debut, Schilling was stunned. "For years people would say, or managers would tell me, 'Can't wait till you get out there and throw, because we need a win,' " he says. "I realized that when I get the ball, [my team] is expected to win. Now when Randy took the mound and we lost, I was crushed. I haven't been able to watch somebody and feel that way in a long time."
Schilling, a big-game pitcher who suffered from a dearth of big games with the bedraggled Phillies, earned his reputation in 1993 with two exceptional playoff starts against the Braves and a Game 5 shutout of the Blue Jays that prolonged the World Series. He had begun preparing for greatness the previous year, when he started keeping a book on umpires because that's what Roger Clemens did. He began studying videotape of dominant pitchers, among them Steve Carlton, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver and, yes, Randy Johnson. Other than command of the fastball, Schilling noticed a common thread. "They always had an idea," Schilling says.
Now his preparation is meticulous. For two years he has had videotape of every pitch he throws downloaded into a computer. "I envision sequences for everybody in the lineup," Schilling says. "I prepare to go four times through the lineup. That's nine innings."