Over the course of the past three seasons the two clubs have seemed so evenly matched. And it's for good reason. Coming into Saturday's contest , the Sox and Yanks were 33-33 in 66 games since the start of the 2003 season, including the postseason. During that stretch, the Red Sox hit .282 against New York, while Yankee batters hit .256 against Boston pitchers. The Red Sox also had the edge in homers (101-78), runs (376-339) and slugging percentage (.471-.421).
But yesterday's contest may be an indication that the two clubs are heading in opposite directions. The Yankee pitching looked meek while Curt Schilling had his best outing of the year, giving the Red Sox hope that he's found his old form just in time for the playoffs. Schilling allowed just five hits in eight solid innings, leading the Sox to a 9-2 victory over their arch-rivals. Making just his seventh start this season, the big righty struck out six, walked two, and notched his first victory since returning to the rotation.
At this point in the season, many pitchers are fading and losing steam, the rigors of pitching into September having taken their toll. For example, Yankee starter Mike Mussina is struggling with a tendon problem in his pitching elbow and could be lost for the season. There probably couldn't be a worse time for a pitcher to go on the DL, and Mussina may be headed there. But if a pitcher ever has to go on the disabled list, Schilling's trip couldn't possibly have come at a better time. He's had almost the entire season to recuperate. After having spent so much of the year on the DL, and then pitching limited innings in a relief role, Schilling seems fresh and could be peaking at just the right time. Nearing the season's final weeks, Schilling has pitched just 67 1/3 innings.
He claims that he feels fine physically, and that it's just been a matter of working out the kinks and building his confidence. Yesterday's effort may have done the trick. For the first time this season, Schilling's fastball hit 96. Hopefully he's finally built up his shoulder and arm strength, and pitched himself back into top form.
There's nothing like a Yankee game to bring out the best in the Sox big-game pitcher. His previous effort against them had been much less encouraging, but that seems like a long time ago, and Schilling was a shadow of his former self at the time. Perhaps yesterday Schilling and the Sox finally saw the return of the shadow. That would be a good omen for the Sox and a bad one for the Yanks. They'll likely have to face Schilling once more on the season's final weekend and possibly again in the playoffs as well - if they're lucky. Now imagine that; the Yankees considering themselves lucky for the privilege of facing Schilling in the playoffs. Hard to believe.
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