10/19/2004 2:43 AM ET
Schilling gets another shot
With special boot, ailing Red Sox ace to give it a go
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
|Curt Schilling tested his gimpy ankle again Monday, just before Game 5. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
BOSTON -- On the brink of elimination in the American League Championship Series, with the season and the hopes of the Red Sox Nation resting on his right arm and now his right foot, Curt Schilling, better known this week as a human lifesaver, will take the mound in the most important game of the season for Boston on Tuesday in New York -- just like the club planned when it traded for him back before the 2004 campaign started.
His return could not come at a better time. The Red Sox are rolling, having won two consecutive games to cut their ALCS deficit to 3-2 on back-to-back game-winners by David Ortiz, and the city is hot in spirit, even if the temperatures are cool.
"It's a chance to get us one step closer to the World Series, a chance to make up for Game 1, a chance to pick my teammates up," Schilling said. "They have been picking each other up for the last couple of days. There's just so many things that go into this. I couldn't ask for anything more."
Times are definitely good in Beantown, but they are not perfect.
The lifesaver might have a leak. Schilling's performance will rely heavily on how his right ankle holds up -- not exactly what the Red Sox had planned when the series started.
"I think we've taken steps to insure that we won't have the same problem we had the first time; that much I know," Schilling said. "So from that standpoint, I'm very confident."
Schilling has been bothered with an ailing right ankle since the end of the regular season and aggravated the injury during his start in Anaheim in the American League Division Series. Problems followed. Specifically, a torn tendon sheath kept him from pushing off the mound and reduced his velocity when he pitched Game 1 of the ALCS against the Yankees last Tuesday.
|The Red Sox were the 26th team in Major League history to fall behind 3-0 in a seven-game series. They are just the sixth to avoid a sweep, and now just the third to win two straight after dropping the first three:|
|2004 ALCS||Boston/NY Yankees||TBD|
|1999 NLCS||NY Mets/Atlanta||Braves in 6|
|1998 NLCS||Atlanta/San Diego||Padres in 6|
Partially because of the injury, the result of his first ALCS start with Boston was not pretty and his line was even uglier -- six hits and six runs (all earned) in three innings in a loss. He walked two batters and struck out one in the 58-pitch outing.
His status for the rest of the series was immediately in doubt. Thankfully for the Sox, now it's not.
"I never mentally shut it down after the game," Schilling said. "I was incredibly disappointed, but emotionally, I was pretty spent after waiting that long for that one game. But (the medical staff) exhausted every scenario we could exhaust until we found something that could work, and that was pretty much a last-gasp effort that ended up working."
He's come a long way in a short time. Because of the pain in his ankle, Schilling could not get on the mound Thursday and was consequently scratched from his scheduled Game 5 start. He was able to warm up Friday and Sunday sufficiently, thus giving Francona the confidence to tab him as the Game 6 starter.
"Ready to go," Francona said.
The start will be Schilling's 14th postseason start of his career and his third in 2004. He is 6-2 with a 2.24 ERA in his 13 previous starts and is 1-1 with a 3.21 ERA lifetime in LCS games in four starts.
"We expect Curt to be Curt," first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said. "The fact that he is able to take the ball again should be lifting for this team. You saw the frustration on his face when he came out of Game 1 and we kind of felt as a team that someway we have to get him back out there. ... Curt is a warrior and he has the chance to silence a lot of people tomorrow."
Schilling is 1-1 with a 3.70 ERA in four career postseason starts against New York, but is 0-2 with a 7.11 ERA in four career games at Yankee Stadium, including the postseason.
But those numbers mean nothing to him now.
"It's never over in these series and these games until you get that last out," he said. "It almost seems like the last team to hit wins. It's something special. I just want to be a part of it and I want to be a positive part of it for this franchise."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.