Fear motivates Schilling to succeed
Postseason vet ready to add to already impressive legacy
BOSTON -- To catch a glimpse into one of the things that has made Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling one of the best postseason pitchers in Major League history, consider just for a second his fear of failure.
"There's always fear," said Schilling, who takes the ball for the Red Sox in a must-win Game 6 of the American League Championship Series against the Indians on Saturday night. "I mean, I'm scared to death to go out and fail tomorrow. I'm terrified of letting my teammates down and the fan base down and this organization down, because they're counting on me to survive and to get past another day. I'm scared to death not to do well tomorrow."
Fear, in Schilling's case, has often created the utmost motivation to succeed.
"I'm also very cognizant of the fact that fear is something that has always driven me and always pushed me," said the big right-hander, who met with the media via a conference call on Friday.
Of course, Schilling's fear a couple of days ago was that Game 2 was going to be his last of 2007. Schilling couldn't hold on to the lead in that game and gave up five runs. The Red Sox lost in 11 innings to start a stunning three-game losing streak.
But redemption has arrived, and Schilling, who will be opposed by talented young right-hander Fausto Carmona, is eager for the opportunity.
"It's very simple now," said Schilling. "I go out and do my job tomorrow and we win, or I don't and we lose. I don't think that's too much pressure or too little. It's just reality. We put ourselves in this position, and I helped put us in this position for better or worse. I've got the ball tomorrow and if I can do what I know I'm capable of doing and I can execute, we can win. And if I don't, then it's going to be very tough."
Three years ago, Schilling was in the exact situation for the Red Sox in the ALCS. They trailed, 3-2, and it was his turn to take the ball, though that time it was in the hostile environment of Yankee Stadium. His right ankle tendon literally stitched into the bone after an innovative surgical procedure, Schilling went out and stifled the Yankees, bloody sock and all.
"One of the things I was thinking about this morning was that a lot of people were going to try to draw parallels to the things that happened in 2004, and to some degree, maybe you can," said Schilling. "I thought, 'Listen, I went out against a team, the Yankee lineup in '04 that was as good as any offense as I've ever faced. I was basically pitching on a broken foot with a lot less stuff than I have now, and I gave up one run over seven innings.'
"There's no excuse for me not to be able to go out tomorrow with what I have now, and if I can execute perfectly, I can pitch as good, if not better [than 2004]."
Schilling came back to Boston early to prepare for his start and watched Game 5 from the comfort of his home. He was enthralled by watching teammate Josh Beckett.
"Watching him do what he did, I'm telling you, I'm watching the game and I'm looking at him and I knew in the second inning that there was just no possible way they were going to score another run," Schilling said.
In a way, Schilling -- 9-2 with a 1.93 ERA in 16 postseason starts -- looked at Beckett and saw a younger version of himself.
"He was absolutely perfectly locked in and nothing was going to get him away from that," said Schilling. "I can remember that, and I can remember the power that that was, and it was literally, 'I'm out here, you're at the plate, I'm going to throw this pitch and there's literally nothing you can do about it.'"
At the age of 40, Schilling is no longer able to blind hitters like Beckett. But he has reinvented himself this year, relying on location of his fastball and more reliance on his offspeed pitches.
"If I had to look at one thing that pretty much sealed the deal, it was pretty much my acceptance that I am what I am," said Schilling. "Going from being what I felt like was a guy who had somewhat similar stuff to Josh's at my beck and call to someone who doesn't have that stuff and has to manufacture outs to pitch differently."
But Schilling's teammates and his manager know that he's a guy who not only wants the ball in this situation, but knows what to do with it.
"It's probably unfair," Terry Francona said when asked of his expectations for Schilling. "I mean, even dating back to the sock, and the soap opera watching him throw in the bullpen and having the doctors and the trainers out there, he really shouldn't have pitched. And I can't remember one moment ever thinking he wouldn't be pitching, and not only that, but that he wouldn't win. And it probably wasn't fair. So I guess that kind of sums up how I feel about Schill."
In Game 2, Schilling gave up nine hits and five runs over 4 2/3 innings. There will be adjustments made.
"Really, we just stay away from that three-run homer and we have ourselves a very good outing," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "We have some ideas, and obviously I don't always divulge that. I'd be a little nuts to do it all of a sudden right now. I have some ideas, we'll meet, we'll talk, we'll try and go out there and go execute what we want to do."
At this stage of his career, Schilling's strength is his preparation and mental toughness.
"I think we're all very confident that he'll perform tomorrow as he's done really over the last four to six weeks, since returning from the disabled list," said Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. "I'm sure we all can draw conclusions from how affected he was during his first start in the series, but to me it was a matter of four runs on two pitches: The three-run homer by [Jhonny] Peralta, the solo home run by [Grady] Sizemore. Other than that, I thought he was very consistent as in previous and most recent outings."
And the one that's next is yet another big October start for Schilling.
With the fear of failure -- not to mention elimination -- looming, Schilling will try to add another notch to his already impressive October legacy.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.