Schilling is one footing the bill for Red Sox's grand survival

October 20, 2004|By LAURA VECSEY

NEW YORK -- It says in Curt Schilling's contract that he gets a $2 million bonus if the Red Sox win the World Series.

He should get twice that much if the Red Sox just happen to make it there, maybe three. Certainly he should be immortalized as a patron saint of curse killing in a city where the memory of too many baseball players live in infamy.

Game 7 tonight at Yankee Stadium. Who's got the stomach for this rematch, this replay, this dM-ijM-` vu all over again?

The Yankees better hope they do. The Red Sox, with Schilling as their stopper, ace and inspiration, have already proved they do. Three straight games of elimination baseball and never did they flinch.

How could they when their mantra through those long nights of extra-inning, comeback wins seemed so reassuring, even if no one believed he could do it:

Curt Schilling will pitch in Game 6.

Well, he did, all right.

Ninety-nine pitches. Seven full innings. That's what Curt Schilling was good for last night. Boy, how good.

He had scrapped the high-top sneaker that was built to cradle his painful ankle. Instead, Schilling went to the mound at Yankee Stadium in his regular cleat.

It was cut low enough for the splotch of red blood on his white sanitary sock to show. In order to pitch, Schilling took a shot of anesthetic in his foot; that way the flapping tendon sheath couldn't cripple him with pain.

Blood and guts; it's just about everything you could ask of your 37-year-old imported ace, except maybe for a bottom-dropped-out fork ball and enough velocity to sling 94-mph fastballs past the flailing bats of the New York Yankees' All-Star lineup.

Shut up, already!

Schilling came into this American League Championship Series telling the world he wanted to hear one thing:

The sound of silence in Yankee Stadium, to know the sweet, quiet music of 55,000 with nothing left to cheer for.

He got his wish, and the 4-2 win, and a special place in the already rich annals of Red Sox-Yankees lore.

It was only after Schilling left that the Stadium grew raucous, angry, agitated, inspired. Schilling was gone and the Yankees went on the attack.

Miguel Cairo doubled and Derek Jeter brought him home on a single, making it 4-2, but then Alex Rodriguez pretended this was a football game and not the ALCS and tried to smack the ball and the glove out of relief pitcher Bronson Arroyo's hand.

Jeter scored as the ball rolled far away into foul territory and Rodriguez went to second, but the umpires huddled and Red Sox manager Terry Francona ordered his players off the field because the Stadium was getting wild.

Interference was called, Rodriguez was called out and Jeter sent back to first. The inning would soon end, and all the work that Schilling had done was safe. His win, salvaged. So, too, was the never-ending series between these two rivals extended, in the fitful, twisting, turning fashion that we have come to expect.

So Schilling had to wait a few long, painful days and nights.

So Schilling's setback sent the Red Sox into a three-game tailspin from which some in the organization had hoped the team would salvage at least one win at home to honor their horrified fans.

Instead they won two, late in the night, once coming within three outs of elimination before mounting a comeback win to keep the series alive.

So Schilling's first attempt to silence New York and put the Red Sox on the path to reversing the curse was cut short in Game 1 by an ankle injury that had all of New England and most of the world expert in the medical and technological intricacies of snapping tendon sheaths.

It hurts, we know that much.

It hurts enough to have raised the specter of Schilling being done for this postseason, which would have meant something entirely different for the Red Sox last night.

What would it have been like had Schilling not been able to take the ball? Who would have answered the call?

Bronson Arroyo? Derek Lowe? Tim Wakefield? Ramiro Mendoza or some ill-fated smorgasbord of Red Sox pitchers, all of them capable but none of them Curt Schilling.

Look at what he did.

Forget the fact that just getting out there was a victory. Look at the effort. He had a shutout through 6 1/3 innings, until Bernie Williams hit his 22nd career postseason home run in the seventh, finally putting the Yankees on the board.

Before the homer, Schilling had registered nine consecutive outs.

We take it that this is what Curt Schilling had in mind.

We take it that this was the effect Schilling intended to have on the New York Yankees, not to mention on 86 years of Red Sox futility.

Hush.

To the city that never sleeps, to the fans that never shut up:

Hush.

Last night, in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series that no one could have expected to come, Schilling took the mound and delivered the Red Sox to a place they know too well:

The precipice of a World Series appearance, but only if they beat back the Yankees one more time.

The pitching matchups, the bullpens, the momentum all favor the Red Sox. But the history?

Well, that's why Schilling came to Boston. To fix that menacing, torturous bit of business. Schilling came to help the Red Sox get past the Yankees, into the World Series and onto a new lease on franchise life.

Never before has a baseball team come back from an 3-0 abyss to force a Game 7 of a playoff series. Now the Red Sox have that earned that distinction.

What comes next is not for the weak of heart, stomach, spirit. Ankles are another matter.

Yankees vs. Red Sox

Best of seven series tied 3-3

Game 1: New York, 10-7

Game 2: New York, 3-1

Game 3: New York, 19-8

Game 4: Boston, 6-4 (12 inn.)

Game 5: Boston, 5-4 (14 inn.)

Last night: Boston, 4-2

Today: Boston (undecided) at New York (undecided), 8:19 p.m.

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