Schilling takes creativity into Game 2
No longer overpowering, Sox righty looks for new ways to win
BOSTON -- Curt Schilling knows better than to think he's the World Series workhorse who dominated hitters in 2001 and '04. But he also knows he isn't the same pitcher whom the Rockies roughed up in June.
Schilling has come to terms with the pitcher he has become. With his 41st birthday coming up next month and with right shoulder trouble costing him a month and a half of action at midseason, he can't know exactly what kind of stuff he'll have on a given day. As he prepares to start Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday night with a chance to give the Red Sox a 2-0 series lead, Schilling's key is to know what to do with whatever he has.
"Part of getting to the point of using the stuff effectively was getting past the frustrating part of it," Schilling said on Wednesday, "accepting the fact that I'll go out and get loose and whatever it is, it is, and whatever I have has to work. I think what it really has done is place a lot more emphasis on the preparation aspect of it and the amount of time and effort I have to put into watching video and [going] through the scouting reports."
For Schilling, who for years has kept a journal on how hitters react to every one of his pitches, an uptick in preparation is quite a statement, even if it's a relative comparison.
"Schill's preparation has always been phenomenal," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "That has never changed or wavered. If anything, it's probably gotten better."
The improvement is in the intricacy. At this point, he can no longer rely on the power pitch to go after a hitter. He has to create power through changing speeds and using movement, and he has to hit his spots.
That lesson, ironically enough, became clear against Colorado in June. Six days after he came one out shy of a no-hitter at Oakland, pounding the strike zone with fastballs, Schilling took the mound against the Rockies and yielded five earned runs over as many innings to go with nine hits. He gave up a three-run homer to Brad Hawpe in his final inning.
"I would like to think it was a combination of not throwing well, not executing well, but that's a good team," Schilling said. "They were a good team then and they swung the bats well then. I've been watching that game and I certainly didn't command the ball well at all, but it's a pretty good offensive team."
That game has no effect on this series, Schilling said. The fact that Josh Beckett rebounded in Wednesday's Fall Classic opener against the same Rockies lineup that beat him in June drove home that point. Still, the Rockies certainly had an effect on Schilling's season.
One start after the loss, he was headed to the disabled list and had an MRI exam performed on his shoulder. Once he returned in August, Schilling learned he couldn't count on power. He had to also be a finesse guy.
That's how he has to be on Thursday. And that requires him to look at scouting reports and video differently than before.
"Before, it might have been, 'I'm not comfortable doing X or Y; I can throw my fastball here,'" Schilling said. "Now, it's having to find multiple ways to do things to different hitters -- for a Todd Helton, for example, that I've faced literally 80, 90 times.
"I'm a very different pitcher now. He's a different hitter, but not that different. So, whereas I used to be able to exploit [hitters] with one pitch exclusively, now I've got to be able to use multiple pitches in different spots."
If he can do that, Schilling can still be a postseason hero. His teammates certainly believe he can.
"We're as confident as any time he takes the mound," third baseman Mike Lowell said. "He's always shown that he can execute a game plan, and he's come up big more often than not in these games."
Schilling's seven innings of two-run ball against Cleveland in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series last Saturday night helped back that up. The Red Sox scored big for him, but unlike his no-decision in Game 2, his pitching never gave the Indians a chance to get back into the game.
He left the mound in the seventh inning to a standing ovation from an adoring crowd that prompted a tip of his cap when he reached the dugout. He talked afterward, not knowing whether it could be his last start in a Red Sox uniform, about how blessed he felt to pitch in front of those fans.
Thanks to Boston's Game 7 win the next night, Schilling has another start. As much history as he has in the LCS, from the bloody sock game in 2004 to his gem last weekend, he's statistically better in the World Series. He put together three starts of at least seven innings, eight strikeouts and two runs or fewer allowed in the 2001 Fall Classic, and he had his way with the Cardinals in his only start of the 2004 Series. His career ERA in six World Series starts is a miniscule 2.11.
With Tim Wakefield injured and Schilling moved up to Game 2, his next World Series start is here, which again could be his last, unless the series returns to Boston for Game 6. But much like Schilling's future, his stuff isn't a certainty. All he can do is prepare to use whatever he's got.
"I've had a couple starts now where it could have been my last one," Schilling said. "It's not something beyond the initial disappointment of the possibility. I haven't really thought about it in depth. I'm playing in my fourth World Series and second as a Boston Red Sox, so I certainly have nothing to be upset about."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.