Three years ago, Curt Schilling took the mound with a bloody sock in Game 6 of the AL championship series and helped the Boston Red Sox stave off elimination. His sock likely won’t be bloody Saturday night, but he’ll look for the same result.
Schilling and the Red Sox seek to force a deciding Game 7 with the Cleveland Indians as the ALCS returns to Fenway Park.
The Indians had a chance to clinch the pennant at home on Thursday, but Josh Beckett dominated them for the second time in this series, allowing one run and five hits in eight innings as the Red Sox won 7-1.
“We know what we have to do now,” said Beckett, who improved to 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA during the 2007 postseason. “This is not where we want to be, but obviously, we’re inching closer to where we want to be.”
With his team on the brink of elimination, there’s no place Schilling (1-0, 3.86 ERA) would rather be than on the mound. In his four career postseason starts when facing elimination, the 40-year-old right-hander’s team has never lost.
He is 3-0 with a 1.11 ERA and a .183 opponent batting average in those outings. The start in which he didn’t earn the decision was Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, when he limited the New York Yankees to one run and three hits in seven innings, putting Arizona in position to eventually win its only championship with a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth.
That game was the signature outing of Schilling’s career until Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. Pitching on a torn ankle tendon with blood seeping out of his sock, he held New York to one run and four hits over seven innings as Boston won 4-2 at Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox went on to win Game 7, completing the only comeback from an 0-3 series deficit in major league history and setting the stage for the franchise’s first World Series title since 1918.
“He really shouldn’t have pitched,” Boston manager Terry Francona said Friday. “And I can’t remember one moment ever thinking he wouldn’t pitch. 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.”
Schilling will try to rebound from a poor outing in last Saturday’s Game 2 at Fenway, as he lasted only 4 2-3 innings while giving up five runs and nine hits, including homers to Grady Sizemore and Jhonny Peralta. The Red Sox lost 13-6 in 11 innings.
“It’s very simple now,” Schilling said Friday. “I go out and do my job tomorrow and we win, or I don’t and we lose. I don’t think that 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, very tough.”
While Schilling has history on his side, Indians starter Fausto Carmona (0-0, 3.46) will try to overcome his poor history of pitching in Boston. The right-hander opposed Schilling in Game 2, and surrendered four runs, four hits and five walks over four innings.
During a stint as Cleveland’s closer, Carmona blew consecutive saves at Boston on July 31 and Aug. 2, 2006, when he gave up a total of five runs in one inning. Although Carmona is 0-2 with a 16.20 ERA over the three Fenway outings, he insists he isn’t worried.
“I’m not going to be intimidated by anything,” said Carmona, who had been 5-0 with a 1.62 ERA in his last six starts prior to Game 2. “I’m not thinking even about Schilling. I’m thinking about the hitters that I’ve got to face.”
Boston designated hitter David Ortiz has given Carmona the most trouble in the past, going 3-for-5 with a homer. Ortiz, who is batting .500 (11-for-22) this postseason with at least one hit in all eight games, had a walk and infield single against Carmona last Saturday.
Including postseason, Sizemore is 4-for-9 (.444) with a double, triple and homer against Schilling. Catcher Victor Martinez has fared even better, going 7-for-11 (.636) with a homer and two doubles.
Cleveland DH Travis Hafner is batting just .158 (.3-for-19) in this series, but one of those hits came versus Schilling, against whom he is 5-for-12 (.417) lifetime.
Although momentum shifted to the Red Sox after Game 5, the Indians remain confident.
“I guarantee anybody over there (in the Boston clubhouse) would like the position we’re in over what they’re in,” third baseman Casey Blake said. “I don’t believe in momentum. We’re still in a position to win.”