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July 20, 2005
One for the memory book
Well, that was more like it.
There'll be tougher tests than protecting a three-run lead against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' 7-8-9 hitters. But Curt Schilling looked like a closer Tuesday night, dispatching the hapless Rays with the greatest of ease. Beyond that, he looked like a power pitcher, firing eight fastballs in his nine-pitch outing that all ranged between 91 and 94 miles per hour. The only non-fastball he threw was a splitter that was lined to left field by Fernando Cortez, where Manny Ramirez -- Good Manny this time -- made a nice running backhand catch.
But even beyond that, he looked like Curt Schilling . . . finally. All season long he's only given us glimpses of the pitcher who delivered 21 regular-season and three postseason victories last year. He says he's been feeling better, and there's no reason not to believe him, except the results -- understandably -- have borne little resemblance to 2004. The Sox felt the bullpen may be the best vehicle to ease him back into form and get him pitching like Curt Schilling again. If Tuesday night is any indication, it appears, finally, that there's a method to the madness.
Tuesday's madness was limited to the usual suspects: Bad Manny barreling in from the left field to spook Edgar Renteria and turn a routine popup to short center field into a single and, eventually, a run; Kevin Millar being thrown out on a busted hit-and-run in which he never even reached second base. But Good Manny made up for it with the home run that put the Sox ahead to stay, and Alex Cora put on a second-base clinic with two spectacular plays: The dive and throw-out of Travis Lee in the fifth inning, and a sensational stop on Cortez in the seventh that went for naught when Renteria dropped the double-play feed. For good measure, Cora was also part of the game's key defensive play -- the eighth-inning pickoff of Carl Crawford at second base that a) took the tying run out of scoring position and b) prevented the Rays from pushing across a run on their two subsequent infield hits.
Somehow, ESPN ignored Cora's web gems -- hard to believe there were better plays in the major leagues than the two he made last night -- and his play at second base may soon fade from memory as Tony Graffanino, a better hitter than Cora, begins to pile up the playing time. Tuesday night's game may fade from memory, too; after all, a mid-July win over Tampa Bay isn't stop-the-presses news.
We may remember Curt Schilling, though. Because this may have been the night he began his retransformation into Curt Schilling.
Posted by Art at 12:15 PM | Permalink