You have to wonder if after a game like last night’s Curt Schilling gets any sleep at all. Well, since this post was written after I went to bed at 11:30 pm last night and before my daughter woke me up at 6:00 am this morning, I am going to go out on a limb and say no.
Before I get to Curt’s 38 Pitches post following his first start against the Yankees this season, let me leave a few comments about last nights game. The Red Sox stole one last night. The stage was set for Alex Rodriguez to continue his magical 2007 by leading his Yankees against the epitome of the enemy in pitcher Curt Schilling.
Instead, Yankee fans are left with the thought that even though Arod brought them to the water, in the ninth inning when it mattered most against a MLB rookie in his first save situation on American soil, Hideki Okajima, Arod lined softly to second base. Throw on top of that the visions of Mariano Rivera walking off the mound to a second consecutive blown save for only the seventh time in his career and top it all off with Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka facing Jeff Karstens and Chase Wright respectively and Yankee fans must be left feeling at the beginning of 2007 like the Red Sox felt towards the end of 2006.
What better way to relive last nights comeback than through the eyes of our resident pundit and blogger extraordiniare, Curt Schilling.
First off Curt, to set the record straight, you pitched on 4/20/2007, not the 21st as your post title would suggest. Maybe the extra day of preparation and rest was wishful thinking on your part, as you weren’t as sharp as I would have expected tonight.
“As much as not throwing well can feel in a game like tonight’s, the win negates pretty much any negatives you might otherwise take away.”
Except maybe that Arod tossed you around tonight like a rag doll. That negative might linger a little in your psyche.
“It always seems like you have to get that first come back win early to be able to get your fair share of them during the season.”
I have always been a believer that the ability for a team to come back is born within the season and for some reason or another doesn’t always show up in great teams. As Red Sox fans, we’ve been lucky to have had drama on our side since the arrival of Big Papi in 2003 more often than not. His presence and inherit ability and confidence down the stretch rubs off on the rest of the team for sure.
“I was pretty fired up for this one. Even though you’ll find media on both sides of the aisle as to whether this ‘rivalry’ is big or not the fans pretty much guarantee that there is going to be electricity in either ball park.”
The two games Curt has been most fired up for, Opening Day and last night, are the two games he hasn’t been at his best. Coincidence?
“Comeback wins count as one, in any month they happen, so there’s no bigger lift now then there would be in June in my opinion, but winning like that, given the guys that made it happen, is a great one regardless of when it happens.”
So, is it a bigger lift in June than April? Is a bigger lift depending on the circumstance and the opponent? This sounds alot like “player-speak” here. I think this win, like stated about the Toronto win previously, instills a personality and sense of confidence in a team finding an identity. Obviously it’s just one win, but a pretty significant one given the way it played out. I think back to 2004 and the ALCS. If Game 4 is a Sox blowout, do they have the momentum that they got from the comeback to carry them through Game 7? I don’t know, but I would guess the following games would have been tangibly different.
“Like everyone else, I knew Alex was on fire, well more than on fire but I am not sure what you’d call it. He’s hotter than hot. Watching his last few games has been pretty impressive. He is just not missing ANY mistakes and in addition he’s crushing some good pitches as well. I think there’s a major difference between a hot hitter, and a hall of fame hot hitter. Hot hitters still have holes, the latter don’t.”
I wonder if Curt is a practicing member of the Anti-Boos movement at ProjectA13.com. The power of positive thinking is amazing. You might say, it’s The Secret.
“Randy Marsh is a tough cookie. The hard part is he’s probably the nicest human being on the planet, but his strike zone tends to be very ‘hitterish’. He doesn’t ring up a lot of third strikes and his corners can be smallish. I thought a couple balls to Derek were strikes, but to no avail. The one thing Randy is, is consistent. You know going in that the plate isn’t going to be normal so you deal with it.”
Second consecutive blog post after a game where Curt gives jaded compliments to the home plate umpire. I can see this coming back to bite him at some point.
“The fourth starts with a fastball in to Alex. The next pitch is where things come unhinged. I won’t go into detail about the pitch intention or the call but needless to say it was NOT supposed to be a fastball, knee high, down the middle. He crushes it. No need to even look, the sound is easily recognizable from guys that swing like that. Now I’m down 2-0 and just got beat by the guy I knew I had a plan I could execute and get out.”
Jeez, the knee high fastball down the middle wasn’t what Varitek called for there? Go figure. I wonder if Curt isn’t “going into detail” here because he still thinks he has the game plan to take down Arod?
“Two out walks, 0-2 hits, 4 pitch walks, the list goes on forever. Cardinal sins for pitchers lose games. Giving up runs with two outs and nobody on is probably one of the more dire sins you can commit as a pitcher.”
Yep…that’s the list of things that drive me crazy. Especially for relievers. I am a huge fan of the Kevin Towers approach to finding relievers. Find guys that pound the strike zone.
“I start Alex off with a fastball strike, then split ball, then run a fastball up and in for strike two. Jason and I confer, with two choices on our minds I pick the wrong one. Looking back at the pitch it was not in that bad of a spot, to most guys, but as hot as he is, and as good as he feels, and as good as he is, he hammers it.”
I wonder which one Tek was looking for? I wonder what the other pitch was? I am guessing with that count, a split might have been in order. But it didn’t look like he had the split last night to put a hitter like Arod away with.
“So basically I give this game away in a three hitter stretch in the fifth. Inexcusable mistakes and horrible execution put us behind a pretty big eight ball as they have Mariano on 4 days rest and Andy is still very sharp.”
It’s pretty interesting to look at this statement through the perspective of the WPA graph from last night.
It bears out Curt’s thinking to this point pretty explicitly. Look at the big swing towards the Yankees in the fifth inning - over 25% WPA with Arod’s home run.
“Obviously the good guys pull it out. Just a fantastic performance from Hideki in the 9th. I think he’s flown under just about everyone’s radar but I think that might stop happening at this point.”
My fantasy league counts holds. Needless to say I ran out and grabbed Okajima off waivers midway through the ninth last night.
“Common theory amongst many baseball people is that you win 50, you lose 50 and what you do in those other 62 is what determines the season. The last two nights we won games that should have been in the ‘lose 50’ column. That’s big no matter what day on the calendar it is, or who they happen against.”
I couldn’t agree more with Curt here. These are the types of games that swing divisions when you look back at the end of the year. If the Sox lose both of the last two instead of pulling out the comebacks, the standings look alot different than they do now.
Current A.L. East Standings
- Red Sox, 10-5, –
- Orioles, 9-7, 1.5
- Yankees, 8-7, 2.0
- Blue Jays, 8-8, 2.5
- Devil Rays, 6-10, 4.5
Standings without the last two comebacks
- Yankees, 9-6, –
- Orioles, 9-7, .5
- Blue Jays, 9-7, .5
- Red Sox, 8-7, 1.0
- Devil Rays, 6-10, 4.0
We’ll see how big those games are at the end of the year.