10/09/07 1:02 AM ET
Beckett sets bar for fellow big-gamer
Schilling says righty's outing was one of the best he's seen
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
So his take on Josh Beckett's performance in Game 1 of the American League Division Series carries a great deal of weight.
"I thought it was probably the most dominating game I'd ever seen from a pure pitcher standpoint," Schilling said.
Beckett, who will be the starter for the Red Sox on Friday night when they open the American League Championship Series, dominated the Angels in a 4-0 complete-game masterpiece, becoming only the seventh pitcher in Major League history to throw a complete-game shutout in back-to-back postseason starts and the first since Orel Hershiser in Game 7 of the 1988 National League Championship Series. In addition, he became the first Major League pitcher to throw a shutout in the postseason since Jose Lima did it for the Dodgers on Oct. 9, 2004, against the Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League Division Series.
But it wasn't so much Beckett's result as much as the way Beckett went about carving up the Angels that so impressed Schilling.
"I think he threw 82 strikes -- 24 balls -- or something like that," said Schilling, who was off by only one on each count, as Beckett threw 83 strikes and 25 balls in his 108-pitch outing. "And I can remember multiple times during that game when you would see a change in their approach that was accounted for on our side of things.
"He went hard early in the count, and the minute they decided that that was probably a bad recipe to take, they began to get aggressive. And Josh immediately started, Josh started throwing soft early. You look at the  strikes. I would guess maybe 55 of them were actually in the strike zone. Another 15 to 20 of those were balls that weren't strikes that they were swinging at."
Schilling noted that Beckett painted his masterpiece during the postseason, when, "for the most part, the strike zone has been very small and hard to work within."
"The fact that he was that efficient was a testament of how dominant his stuff was," Schilling said. "And there's some numbers out of that that might blow you away, but to me they're just incredible. He's thrown two shutouts in his career in the regular season and three in six starts in October. That's pretty awesome. It was one of the most dominant games I've ever seen pitched at any level, and it was a huge, huge lift. And on a personal level, to me, it was a bar-setter."
Throughout his career, Schilling has defined what a big-game postseason pitcher was, yet here he was saying Beckett set the bar for him. Schilling then went out Sunday afternoon and held the Angels scoreless for seven innings to lead a series-clinching 9-1 route of the Angels.
|"He's thrown two shutouts in his career in the regular season and three in six starts in October. That's pretty awesome. It was one of the most dominant games I've ever seen pitched at any level, and it was a huge, huge lift."|
|-- Curt Schilling, on Josh Beckett|
Schilling did not one-up Beckett, but he certainly served notice of a "game on" friendly competition between the talented right-handers. Facing the Indians in the ALCS, it's not likely either will enjoy the Beckett-Schilling competition, a contest in which two great competitors will be pushing one another to find excellence.
On Saturday, Schilling teased that he wanted to do well on Sunday because that way "I don't have to hear him talk in the back of the plane," he said. "I'd like to go out tomorrow and do something better and be able to throw it back at him."
Amid the Red Sox's champagne-soaked celebration in the visitors' clubhouse of Angel Stadium, Beckett stood and talked about how much fun he has had watching Schilling adjust to being more of a pitcher from the overpowering pitcher of his youth. When asked about his friendly competition with Schilling, Beckett would not go there.
"I want him to win every one of his starts," Beckett said. "It's one of those deals where he's got to go out there and execute pitches. That's what he did [Sunday], and that's what I did a few days ago. Now we need some other guys to keep stepping up, a different guy every night."
Red Sox manager Terry Francona admires the relationship between his two right-handers.
"I think, in a way, that's Schill kind of acknowledging what Beckett has done and turned into," Francona said. "It's funny, because I think some guys, you maybe see some jealousy. I think Schill, just the comments he's made to me, he's seemed so proud of Beckett. That makes me feel good."
Francona also likes the fact that no jealousy seems to exist between the pair.
"I think what Schill is trying to do is just push himself and others," Francona said. "If there's a friendly rivalry there, that's healthy. I think guys can feed off that stuff."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.