Schilling focused on postseason
Red Sox ace finishes regular season on positive note
BOSTON -- No one is looking forward to the postseason more than Curt Schilling.
The 2005 season has been the most grueling in the 17-year career of the six-time All-Star. But after allowing just one run and eight hits over six innings Sunday, the man who made the bloody sock part of New England sports history can now focus on trying to recapture last year's postseason glory.
"What happened today and what happened over the last six months has no relevance to what happens going forward," said Schilling.
Heading into action Sunday, the Sox were calling on the right-hander to give them a quality start and give the offense enough time to get to the Yankees' Jaret Wright and clinch an American League Wild Card berth. Mission accomplished for both Schilling and the Sox.
While the Sox officially had their playoff ticket punched in the fifth inning with Cleveland's loss to the White Sox, Schilling made a point to keep focused on the task at hand, something he feels will come in handy from here on in.
"I was trying as hard as I could today not to watch the scoreboard trying to get stuff done," he said. "It's October now and the calendar changes, and I think my ERA went down as much as anyone in baseball in the last couple of hours. Now it's a matter of focusing on the task at hand.
"We have to win 11 games before anyone else does. That was how we went about it last year. It was a very simple approach."
On Sunday, Schilling's approach was simple survival in the first two innings, giving up four hits but no runs. The key was Manny Ramirez throwing out Derek Jeter trying to extend his single to a double on Schilling's first pitch of the day.
"Offensively, we were relentless today," Schilling said. "We put pressure on them early and we had a game plan going in. I didn't locate the ball well early, but Manny made a huge play early in the first and we went from there."
Schilling also allowed singles to Robinson Cano and Gary Sheffield in the first, and then a leadoff double to Jorge Posada in the second before settling down and giving up just four hits in his final four innings.
"I threw the first pitch of the game right down the middle of the plate and hung a curveball to Sheff and threw a good pitch to Cano -- a changeup that he [singled] on a ground ball -- but the key to the inning was the play Manny made."
Schilling's adjustments in the later innings made life a little easier for manager Terry Francona.
"Same way I feel about our ballclub, it has not always been perfect," Francona said. "Today it was funny once we told him that he was going back out there for the sixth inning, he is already talking about his side session on Tuesday, what he needs to work on. It hasn't been easy for him, but he doesn't give in. There is a big sense of comfort for me that even if he is not perfect, he is going to compete."
Matt Clement will start Game 1 of the American League Division Series in Chicago on Tuesday afternoon, and Schilling is slated to get his first taste of postseason action in Game 4, if necessary, at Fenway Park on Saturday.
"I'm ready," Schilling said. "When they give me the ball, I'll be ready to go."
His manager and catcher agree.
"There's no question, he's ready," Jason Varitek said.
"He is going to give everything he has and he is going to figure out a way," added Francona. "And I think he really showed that today."
Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.