Tony Gwynn: Rating baseball’s best hitters
Some fans might come to Fenway Park Wednesday night expecting to witness a fight, only to see a baseball game break out.
One day after acknowledging that Red Sox pitchers had intentionally thrown at Devil Rays batters in the past, Boston’s Curt Schilling takes the mound attempting to go 4-0 as the teams continue their three-game set.
The Red Sox (10-4) and Devil Rays have a history of beanballs and bench-clearing incidents dating back several years. In 108 meetings between the teams since the start of the 2000 season, 120 batters have been hit.
Over the same span, the Boston and Tampa Bay (7-7) pitching staffs each have beaned 495 batters, easily tied for the most in baseball. Colorado ranks third with 446 opposing batters hit.
Kazmir plunked the same two Boston batters again on April 22, and tempers boiled over in the April 24 series finale, a game featuring six ejections and two brawls.
“When you’re a young pitcher and you can’t pitch inside, you don’t,” Schilling said Tuesday on a Boston radio station, “because what you end up doing is getting players on your own team hurt, and that’s a byproduct of rushing guys to the big leagues.
“We made it clear to them, for the most part, in that context, that we were only throwing at guys on their team because (Kazmir) couldn’t” throw accurately, Schilling said.
New Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon didn’t seem riled by Schilling’s comments.
“It doesn’t bother me. I’m not incensed,” he said. “I’m not into rhetoric, really.”
Tavarez was suspended 10 games for the incident. He has since returned to action but did not appear in Tuesday night’s series opener, a 7-4 Red Sox victory in which no beanball incidents occurred.
After struggling through last season while recovering from ankle surgery, Schilling appears as dominant as ever, going 3-0 with a 1.64 ERA and a .147 opponent batting average through three starts.
His most recent start—Friday against Seattle—was his best, as he limited the Mariners to one run on three hits over eight innings, striking out seven without issuing a walk.
“I wasn’t sure what I was going to be this year,” said Schilling, who has never won his first four starts in a season. “I feel I’m pitching better than I ever have.”
Though he has not recorded a decision, the Devil Rays have lost both of right-hander Doug Waechter’s starts this season. He deserved a better fate last Thursday versus Baltimore, though, allowing one run in six innings and leaving with a lead in a game Tampa Bay eventually dropped 6-5.
Waechter is 1-1 with a 5.04 ERA in five career appearance—four of them starts—against the Red Sox.
Tampa Bay’s loss on Tuesday snapped its first three-game winning streak of the season. For Boston, which scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, it was the third straight victory in a row and the second straight win coming in the team’s last at-bat.