Two days ago, Curt Schilling said: "The thing that I've found odd is the more innings I've thrown, my stuff has gotten better later in a game. My stuff used to be hard [early] and I'd have to rein it back in. It's almost the exact opposite now where I'm coming out and I'm locating very well early but I don't feel like the zip is there. And then the fifth, sixth inning, all of it is there."
His performance yesterday and post-game comments back this up. After retiring 14 of the first 16 Rangers, he began to overthrow. Texas scored twice in the 6th (Hank Blalock's line drive just cleared the right field fence) and had two long fly outs to left (nice grab, Manny!) and center. After the sixth, Schilling had thrown 98 pitches and I figured his afternoon was done.
I disagreed with sending him out for the 7th, but Schilling got the 7-8-9 hitters in order (though the first out was a hard-rising liner to right), actually hitting 96 on the gun (he was around 91-92 most of the day). It turns out that Jon Papelbon was warming up before the inning began -- and likely would have come in had Texas got a baserunner. Knowing that, I'm alright with Tito's decision. (Pap worked a perfect 8th, throwing 13 pitches and showcasing a very nasty splitter.)
Schilling said his splitter was not working: "I think I got maybe two outs with it. The others were bad. I threw some real good changeups. I got an out with it early, and some not-so-good ones later. ... It's been two years since I felt remotely close to this. This is how I was in 2002."
In naming Papelbon and Mike Timlin as his set-up men, Francona said there will be times when Papelbon comes into a game in the seventh inning and finishes it. Yesterday was a perfect spot for that, but a five-run lead was also a good time for Keith Foulke to get his feet wet. He gave up some loud shots, but no one seemed to care (or worry).
Damn, Coco Crisp is fast. After striking out looking in his first two trips (Kevin Millwood received more than a few gift calls in the early innings), he reached on a fielder's choice in the 5th (excellent take-out slide at second from Alex Gonzalez) and singled to the opposite field in the 7th. He scored from first both times on doubles (Mark Loretta and David Ortiz). There were no plays at the plate on either hit.
Loretta saw 31 pitches in his five at-bats (5-3-8-10-5). ... Gonzalez had two singles. ... After Millwood walked Trot Nixon on four pitches in the fourth, Jason Varitek ripped a first-pitch double, scoring Boston's first two runs. ... Boston was hitting Millwood hard right away, but Laynce Nix made three excellent running catches to both gaps to take hits away from Ortiz, Nixon and Loretta. It was only a matter of time before those liners started finding grass.
Speaking of Millwood's strike zone, the pitch of the game came in the 5th. There were two outs, Crisp on first, Boston up 2-0. Millwood's 2-2 pitch to Loretta was called a ball, but he had gotten that outside pitch at least twice times earlier in the game (including Loretta in the first). A third strike would have ended the inning. Instead, Loretta fouled the next pitch off, then stroked a double to right-center, scoring Crisp. Ortiz crushed a 3-1 pitch ("I don't know what the hell it was ... something over the plate") for a two-run homer and the Sox led 5-0. (Coco: "I try to hit the bottom of the foul pole, but he hit the top.")
ESPN's camera work was horrible. They nearly missed Ramirez's running grab at the left center wall in the 6th because they were aiming in the bleachers as though it was a home run. And on Schilling's final batter, a grounder to Lowell, they showed Gonzalez as he walked off the field, thus missing both Lowell's throw and the play at first.
The announcers were also lame. When Michael Young struck out in the first inning, Gary Thorne said his swing "wasn't even close, that was over his head." As he spoke, the replay showed the pitch at his letters. When the camera showed Roger Clemens in the stands, Thorne said "no one manipulates the media better than he does" -- then you could almost hear Thorne's brain throw on the brakes and said "and I mean that in a good way".
One of the announcers referred to Bronson Arroyo as "the youngster" on the staff who got traded. Arroyo was born February 24, 1977; Josh Beckett is more than three years younger (born May 18, 1980) (and Papelbon (who will be in the rotation very soon) was born November 23, 1980). ... Steve Phillips is usually an idiot, but he was spot-on with his comments about the arbitrary nature and complete uselessness of MLB's steroid investigation.