Red Sox see light between raindrops

Schilling's solid workout, chance to use rested Martinez in Game 5 to help uphill climb after rainout

Yanks seek 3-0 lead at Fenway tonight

New York stands pat, plans to use Brown, Hernandez as starters

October 16, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - Trailing 2-0 in the American League Championship Series, the Boston Red Sox would settle for any new advantage right now, which is why last night's events at Fenway Park were encouraging, even though Game 3 was postponed by rain.

Who gained the most from the rainout, the Red Sox or the New York Yankees? "Well," Boston manager Terry Francona said with nary a grin, "[the Yankees] didn't win tonight."

Actually, the news was better than Francona's tone seemed to indicate.

Curt Schilling put on a high-top shoe and tested his injured right ankle in a bullpen session, rekindling Boston's hope that he'll be able to pitch again in this series.

And the rainout pushes Game 5 to Monday, which was originally scheduled as an off day, so the Red Sox could use Game 2 starter Pedro Martinez that evening at Fenway, with his usual four days' rest.

The alternative was having him pitch on short rest tomorrow - still a possibility, of course, if the Red Sox fall behind 3-0 tonight - or subjecting him to more of the "Who's your daddy?" abuse in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium.

Francona wasn't tipping his hand. He said he'd stick with Bronson Arroyo in Game 3, Tim Wakefield in Game 4, and Derek Lowe in Game 5.

"We kind of reserve the right to change that [Game 5 starter]," Francona said, "or look at it a little bit more."

The Yankees also had a chance to use the rainout to their advantage by skipping Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez in Game 4, and bringing back Mike Mussina and Jon Lieber on their regular rest for Games 4 and 5, respectively.

Mussina, an admitted creature of habit, much prefers to pitch every five days, but Lieber is 12-3 at Yankee Stadium this season, counting his gem in Game 2, and this plan could give him another big start in the Bronx.

For now, New York plans to stick with Kevin Brown in Game 3 and Hernandez in Game 4, followed by Mussina and Lieber.

Hernandez hasn't pitched since Oct. 1, when he was shelled in Toronto with a tired right shoulder and a fastball that barely topped 82 mph. But he is 9-3 with a 2.51 ERA in his postseason career, and the Yankees view him as a big-game pitcher.

He had an encouraging bullpen session Wednesday, and if this series goes seven games, that means five games over the next five days, so they'd have to use Hernandez sometime.

"We would probably not feel as comfortable with him in the seventh game as we do in the fourth game," said Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre.

The Red Sox pinned much of their hopes in this series on Schilling, which made it all the more devastating when a torn sheath in his right ankle tendon made him ineffective in Game 1.

Until yesterday, the news kept getting worse. On Wednesday, the Red Sox revealed the true severity of the injury and spoke of trying a new brace on Schilling to stabilize the tendon. On Thursday, when the right-hander was in too much pain to throw his side session, Francona said Schilling wouldn't start Game 5.

So yesterday, Schilling grabbed the high-top, forgoing the brace, and went through his normal between-starts bullpen work.

"He actually did pretty well," Francona said. "Well enough where we are just leaving the door open for his season not to be over, but that's about the extent of it right now."

Francona said the next step is seeing how Schilling's ankle responds today. If nothing else, the Red Sox may have gained yesterday - as they did with Thursday's off day - by slowing New York's momentum.

The Red Sox last won the World Series in 1918, and they have more history working against them. No team facing a 2-0 deficit has come back to win a league championship series since the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals came back to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Clearly, Game 3 is critical, as no team in Major League Baseball history has rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. The Red Sox will be trusting the task to Arroyo, who hasn't lost since Aug. 15.

"I don't feel the weight of the entire season," he said. "I obviously feel a lot of pressure from this series. We're not down 3-0, but obviously we're backed into a corner and it's going to be a huge, huge game."

Baseball playoffs

AL Championship Series, Game 3:

N.Y. Yankees at Boston, today, 8:10 p.m., chs. 45, 5

NL Championship Series, Game 3:

St. Louis at Houston, today, 4:25 p.m., chs. 45, 5

Postseason schedule

Best of seven; *-if necessary

World Series

Oct. 23: NL at AL, 8:05 p.m. Oct. 24: NL at AL, 8 p.m. Oct. 26: AL at NL, 8:30 p.m. Oct. 27: AL at NL, 8:25 p.m. *Oct. 28: AL at NL, 8:25 p.m. *Oct. 30: NL at AL, 7:55 p.m. *Oct. 31: NL at AL, 8 p.m.

On the Web

Sun reporter Roch Kubatko will answer readers' questions about the Orioles. Log on to www.baltimoresun.com/orioles. Responses will be posted later in the week.

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