|© 2004 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.|
Red Sox have a winning pair10/25/2004 3:20 AM ET
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
BOSTON -- While the loose tendon in Curt Schilling's right ankle is literally being held together by thread, the Red Sox now have far more stable footing in their quest to bring home the franchise's first World Series championship since 1918.
Schilling, the 37-year-old workhorse, gutted through another outing Sunday night at Fenway Park. In the process he put the Sox in prime position in this World Series.
The combination of Schilling's sheer will and clutch hitting by the Red Sox paved the way for a 6-2 victory over the Cardinals that put Boston in the drivers seat, up 2-0, as this best-of-seven Fall Classic shifts to St. Louis for Tuesday night's Game 3.
Schilling woke up at his home Sunday morning thinking he was going to have to make the excruciatingly difficult decision of backing out of a World Series start.
"I wasn't going to pitch," said Schilling. "I couldn't walk, I couldn't move. I don't know what happened, but I knew that when I woke up there was a problem."
But thanks again to the team's medical staff, which has jumped through every hoop imaginable to keep Schilling on the mound in these playoffs, he was well enough to pitch by game time. One of the four sutures placed in his ankle on Saturday was removed, and it proved to be a cure-all.
It wasn't just the medical staff that made life easier for Schilling. He had plenty of help from his offense. Every run the Red Sox scored came via two-out hit. The biggest knocks came from Jason Varitek (two-run triple), Mark Bellhorn (two-run double) and Orlando Cabrera (two-run single).
With his sock again bloodied by the sutures in his ankle, Schilling held the Cardinals to four hits and no earned runs in his six innings of work. He walked one and struck out four, improving to 8-2 lifetime in 15 postseason starts.
"You can't put into words what he's done," said Red Sox reliever Alan Embree. "Gut check after gut check, especially with the way his ankle has responded. The doctor has done a great job, he's been through a lot of pain. I can't say that I've been there. What he's done has been truly amazing."
And he became the first pitcher in the history of the game to win World Series starts for three different teams (Phillies in 1993, Diamondbacks in 2001). But this win, as was his conquest over the Yankees in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, belongs in its own special place in baseball lore.
"I'll look back on that some day," said Schilling. "I think, like the other 24 guys in that room, I'm so focused on what we're trying to do right now. There's not a whole lot of stuff entering my mind."
If Schilling's ankle can make it through one more suture treatment, he would likely start Game 6 at Fenway Park. That is, if there is a Game 6.
Schilling wouldn't commit one way or the other about being able to pitch again in 2004.
"I don't know," Schilling said. "I haven't thought about it. I'm thinking about Pedro [Martinez] on the mound Tuesday in St. Louis. I'm a little beat up right now. It's the first time in my life I think I've felt my age. We'll see what happens."
The Sox could avoid the dilemma altogether and wrap this thing up in St. Louis by winning two out of three. They have a chance to get off to a good start in Game 3, when three-time Cy Young Award winner Martinez takes the mound against former Boston right-hander Jeff Suppan.
But the Sox know better than anyone that a 2-0 lead hardly guarantees a successful ending. Boston was down 3-0 to the Yankees in the last round and lived to tell about it. And, the 1986 Red Sox had a 2-0 lead in the World Series but lost to the Mets in seven games.
"We knew we had to go into St. Louis 2-0," said Sox center fielder Johnny Damon. "Game 3 is a must-win for us. We're not going to take anything for granted. We know how momentum in this series can change in a heartbeat."
Still, the Sox are looking more and more like a team that's going to be hard to take down. They are 9-3 this postseason and have won six in a row.
Amazingly, the Sox have made four errors in each of the first two games, and don't have a loss to show for the shoddy glove work.
"Two-out hits, two-out runs are huge," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "When teams get them against you, it's damaging. When you do it, it's awesome."
Speaking of awesome, there was Schilling. Despite his well-chronicled injury that will require surgery as soon as the season ends, the veteran righty was finding a way to get outs in the early going. The Cardinals put together a modest rally in the fourth, with Albert Pujols ripping a leadoff double down the line in left and moving to third on Trot Nixon's diving catch against Scott Rolen. With two outs, Sox third baseman Bill Mueller bobbled a grounder by Reggie Sanders. The Cardinals scored their first run of the game on the error.
But the Sox bounced right back in their half of the fourth. With runners on second and third and two outs, Bellhorn -- the hero in Game 1 -- belted a two-run double off the wall in center field. That gave Schilling a 4-1 lead.
The biggest thing working against Schilling was the Boston defense. In particular, Mueller was having a nightmarish game with the glove. His third error of the night gave the Cardinals a baserunner (Rolen) with two outs in the sixth. Then Bellhorn couldn't handle a grounder by Jim Edmonds, giving the Sox four errors on the night, and eight in the first two games.
"When Bellhorn made that error, the first thing Curt Schilling said was, 'I got you, I got you.' Errors are a part of baseball," said Sox first baseman Kevin Millar. "We're fortunate enough where it didn't hurt us, because Curt Schilling did a great job picking us up that inning."
The Sox went for the jugular in the bottom of the sixth against St. Louis reliever Cal Eldred. Singles by Nixon and Damon set the table for Cabrera with two outs. The shortstop lofted one off the Green Monster to make it a 6-1 game. Though Cabrera stopped at first with a single, Damon was able to score all the way from first.
After giving it everything he had, Schilling handed things over to Alan Embree, who struck out the side in the seventh.
Mike Timlin (two-thirds of an inning) and Keith Foulke (the final four outs) took it home. Despite their good position, the Red Sox didn't seem ready to exhale as the series moves to the Midwest.
"We have to continue to concentrate and push ourselves to continue to outplay them," said Varitek.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Red Sox Homepage | MLB.com