SERIES: AL championship series; Yankees lead, 3-2.
Curt Schilling isn’t going to let an injured ankle get in the way of a shot at redemption.
Acquired this past offseason to help the Boston Red Sox finally get past the New York Yankees, the hard-throwing right-hander will take the mound for Game 6 of the AL championship series hoping to continue what is suddenly shaping up as a comeback for the ages.
“It’s something special,” he said. “I just want to be a part of it and I want to be a positive part of it for this franchise.”
Schilling won 21 games during the regular season and added a victory in the division series against Anaheim to get the Red Sox back into the championship series for a second straight year. Last October, the Yankees beat the Red Sox in seven thrilling games to deny Boston its first trip to the World Series since 1986, and a shot at its first title since 1918.
Schilling was brought in from Arizona to change all that, and to beat the Yankees when it mattered most.
Things did not work out very well for him in the series opener.
Schilling was pounded for six runs in three innings of a 10-7 loss at Yankee Stadium last Tuesday. He re-aggravated a dislocated tendon surrounding his right ankle in the process.
The Red Sox all but counted out Schilling for the remainder of the series, and when the Yankees took a 3-0 series lead, things looked even more bleak.
But Boston has since battled back to force a sixth game, something only two other teams in history had done after going down 0-3. Schilling has steadily worked his ankle back into good enough shape to take the ball again with Boston’s season on the line.
He threw a pair of bullpen sessions after his dismal outing in New York, and the second one provided the Red Sox with the good news they’d been hoping for.
“He did well enough where we named him the (Game 6) starter without any qualms,” Boston manager Terry Francona said.
“We wanted him to pitch if he could pitch being healthy, not at risk and also being able to be productive. I think that’s where we’re at.”
The key for Schilling, a power pitcher who relies on his fastball and sinker, will be his ability to push off on his right foot. With the tendon around his ankle unstable, Schilling was unable to use his drop-and-drive delivery to maximum effectiveness during Game 1.
The Red Sox tried to use a stabilizing boot to strengthen the joint, but ultimately, Schilling’s success or failure will more than likely depend on his ability to pitch through the pain in his right ankle.
“It’s a chance to get us one step closer to the World Series, a chance to make up for Game 1, a chance to pick my teammates up,” Schilling said. “They have been picking each other up for the last couple of days. There’s just so many things that go into this. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
The Red Sox have displayed extraordinary toughness of their own over the last two games.
They rallied from behind to pull out a 6-4, 12-inning victory in their first elimination game Sunday night on David Ortiz’s walk-off two-run homer.
On Monday, Ortiz again played the hero as the Red Sox walked off with a 5-4 win in a 14-inning marathon that ended on his RBI single into center with two out.
No team in major league history has forced a seventh game after being down 0-3, but Boston has been given new life after getting outslugged and outpitched in the first three games.
Schilling can’t wait to do his part.
“I’m just so proud to be a part of this team,” he said. “This was—was just a phenomenal night, phenomenal two nights. This is like round 13 of a 15-round prize fight right now, two heavyweights, it was unbelievable.”
The Yankees are hoping Jon Lieber can stop Boston’s momentum. The right-hander was dominant in Game 2 in New York on Wednesday, allowing one run and three hits over seven innings as the Yankees pulled out a 3-1 victory.
Lieber has allowed four runs and 10 hits over 13 1-3 innings in his first two career postseason starts. Both of those victories came at Yankee Stadium, where Lieber went 11-3 with a 3.68 ERA during the regular season.
Rain is in the forecast for New York on Tuesday, and a postponement may actually be a blessing as both teams overextended their relief corps the last three days.
“Well, we’re very evenly matched,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “You know, we have a lot of intensity on both sides of this thing, and you know, it takes on a life of its own. As I said, each game is a series in itself, and I think obviously, these last two games have proven that. These ballclubs both want it badly, and, yeah, they are going to keep battling right until somebody winds up going beyond.”
Game 7, if necessary, will be Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
PROJECTED LINEUPS: Red Sox - CF Johnny Damon (.304, 20 HRs, 94 RBIs, 123 runs, 19 SBs), 2B Mark Bellhorn (.264, 17, 82, 177 Ks), LF Manny Ramirez (.308, 43, 130), DH Ortiz (.301, 41, 139), 1B Kevin Millar (.297, 18, 74), RF Trot Nixon (.315, 6, 23), C Jason Varitek (.296, 18, 73), SS Orlando Cabrera (.294, 6, 31), 3B Bill Mueller (.283, 12, 57). Yankees - SS Derek Jeter (.292, 23 HRs, 78 RBIs, 23 SBs), 3B Alex Rodriguez (.286, 36, 106, 28 SBs), RF Gary Sheffield (.290, 36, 121, 117 runs), LF Hideki Matsui (.298, 31, 108), CF Bernie Williams (.262, 22, 70), C Jorge Posada (.272, 21, 81), DH Ruben Sierra (.244, 17, 65), 1B Tony Clark (.221, 16, 49), 2B Miguel Cairo (.292, 6, 42).
RED SOX PROBABLE STARTING PITCHER: Schilling (1-1, 7.45 ERA). The right-hander is 3-2 with a 4.72 ERA in 10 regular-season appearances, including seven starts, against the Yankees. He had not pitched against the Yankees in New York this year before his Game 1 loss.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTING PITCHER: Lieber (14-8, 4.33 ERA). The right-hander is 1-0 with a 4.19 ERA in three career regular-season starts against Boston. He beat the Red Sox 14-4 at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 18, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning before Ortiz connected for a two-out, two-run homer.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Red Sox, 11-8.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Red Sox - Relievers Mike Timlin, Keith Foulke, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Myers, Alan Embree and winner Tim Wakefield combined for eight shutout innings in Game 5 after the Yankees scored four runs off starter Pedro Martinez. … Ortiz is hitting .500 with three HRs and 13 RBIs in this series. … Ramirez, who drove in 130 runs this season, does not have an RBI in this series. Yankees - New York went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position in Game 5. … After playing a five-hour, two-minute Game 4, the Red Sox and Yankees set a postseason record Monday by going five hours, 49 minutes. … RHP Mariano Rivera, who entered the postseason with two blown saves in 32 playoff chances, has squandered three saves during these playoffs, including each of the last two games against Boston.
POSTSEASON ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Red Sox - 2-2 on the road. Yankees - 3-1 at home.