Curt Schilling pitches Red Sox into ALCS
Brilliant as ever in the postseason, Curt Schilling helped give the Boston Red Sox some time off. The way they’re playing, maybe that’s the last thing they need.
Schilling worked seven masterful innings, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez homered, and the Red Sox routed the Los Angeles Angels 9-1 Sunday to complete a three-game sweep of their first-round AL playoff series.
The Red Sox open the AL championship series at Fenway Park on Friday night against either the Cleveland Indians or New York Yankees. New York won 8-4 Sunday night, and trails that series 2-1.
Schilling isn’t the power pitcher he once was, but he handled the Angels with relative ease. Even when the Angels loaded the bases early, he escaped.
"His style has changed, but the results in the postseason remain the same. That’s a real tribute to him," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said. "That’s what makes him special."
Schilling raised his postseason record to 9-2 in 16 career starts while lowering his ERA to 1.93, having allowed only 25 earned runs in 116 1-3 innings.
"This is not a solo thing. You’ve got to have a team to make it work. That performance today was as much about John Farrell and Jason Varitek as it was about anything, as far as I’m concerned, and as far as my results," Schilling said, referring to Boston’s pitching coach and catcher, respectively.
"It’s been an incredibly arduous and long road and a process that’s had its peaks and valleys, but John has stuck with me and worked as hard as I’ve ever had a pitching coach work to get me to where I need to be," Schilling said. "And Jason was flawless today."
The Red Sox joined the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies in sweeping a first-round series this October - this is the first time since the current format began in 1995 that it’s happened.
Vladimir Guerrero and his Los Angeles teammates hit .192 as a team and scored a mere four runs in three games.
"Pitching is everything, and our guys were pitching," Ramirez said. "In the playoffs, you got to have pitching. Schilling’s the man. He’s got a lot of spirit, he knows what he’s doing out there and he came through for us today."
The Angels have lost nine straight playoff games to the Red Sox and seven straight postseason games overall.
Boston beat the Angels in the last three games of the 1986 ALCS and swept them in the first round of the 2004 playoffs.
Schilling was working in the postseason for the first time since the 2004 World Series, when his bloody sock became the stuff of baseball lore.
The 40-year-old righty had been hampered by an injured ankle in the AL championship series against the New York Yankees that year. Team doctors stitched a tendon in his right ankle to keep it from flopping around, and he returned to lead the Red Sox to a Game 6 win that tied the series. The Red Sox went on to win Game 7, then the World Series against St. Louis for their first title since 1918.
He wasn’t used in the 2005 playoffs, and Boston didn’t make the postseason last year.
"I thought Schill was outstanding," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He especially commanded his fastball on both sides of the plate - in and out, up and down. He really pitched."
Pitching for the first time in 12 days, Schilling scattered six hits while walking one, striking out four and throwing 100 pitches - 76 for strikes.
He was at his best in his final inning of work.
With the Red Sox leading just 2-0, Maicer Izturis doubled to start the Los Angeles seventh, but Howie Kendrick grounded to second, Juan Rivera popped to first and Mike Napoli struck out to end the inning.
The Angels broke the shutout in the ninth against Eric Gagne. Izturis doubled and later scored on Kendrick’s sacrifice fly.
Los Angeles had a big league-best 54-27 record at home this season, hitting .305 at Angel Stadium, but it did them no good against Schilling.
"We swung the bats, hit balls at people and their pitching did a great job of keeping us off-balance," Kendrick said. "When you’re down in the count, it’s always tougher to hit."
The Angels lost cleanup hitter Garret Anderson early in Sunday’s game because of continued problems with conjunctivitis in his right eye. They were already without center fielder Gary Matthews Jr., left off the division series roster after missing 14 games in September with a sprained left ankle and an irritated right knee.
"This series wasn’t lost on injuries, it’s part of any season, guys are going to get hurt," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We got hit by some of ours at the wrong time. That’s baseball. You’re not going to look back and make excuses. Those guys went out there and beat us, and that’s the bottom line."
Ortiz and Ramirez put the Red Sox ahead to stay by hitting consecutive home runs against Jered Weaver to begin the fourth.
Ortiz hit Weaver’s second pitch of the inning over the right-field fence for his franchise-record 10th postseason homer. Ramirez followed by driving a full-count pitch over the center field for his 22nd in the postseason, tying former Yankees star Bernie Williams for the all-time record.
Just as he did Friday night in Boston, when his game-ending homer gave the Red Sox a 6-3 victory, Ramirez thrust both fists into the air and posed near the plate as his hit sailed out of the ballpark. This time, the display was abbreviated.
The back-to-back homers were the first of the season for the Red Sox stars.
The AL East champs broke open the game in the eighth by scoring seven runs against relievers Scot Shields, Justin Speier and Darren Oliver.
Justin Pedroia, Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek hit RBI doubles, Kevin Youkilis had a sacrifice fly, J.D. Drew drove in a run with a grounder and Coco Crisp hit a two-run single.
Weaver, a 25-year-old right-hander who grew up in Southern California and was making his postseason debut, pitched out of a second-and-third, no-out jam in the second, retiring Drew on a dribbler to the mound and striking out Varitek and Crisp.
Anderson, who had 65 RBIs after the All-Star break, was removed the following inning and replaced by Reggie Willits. The move came after Anderson reacted slowly to Lowell’s double in the second.
"Garret did not see the ball in the outfield today," Scioscia said. "You can’t take a chance like that if you’re not seeing the ball as clearly as you need to. Up until now, he had been fine with that."
The Angels felt the absence of Anderson immediately, because Willits batted with the bases loaded and two outs in the third and popped out to the catcher.
Notes:@ The Red Sox took a 2-0 lead in five previous postseason series, and won Game 3 each time. They won the first two games of the 1986 World Series over the New York Mets, but wound up losing in seven games. ... Angels 1B Casey Kotchman didn’t play because of what Scioscia called a non-baseball-related medical condition. "That’s all we can say," team spokesman Larry Babcock said. ... Ortiz drew two walks Sunday, giving him seven in the series.