Sox Rolling The Dice In Game Two

BOSTON—Game One of the American League Division Series against the Angels was still more than two days away when the Red Sox threw the first curveball of the postseason Monday afternoon.

Terry Francona announced at a press conference that Daisuke Matsuzaka will start Game Two Friday. Curt Schilling, who was expected to start Game Two after his final start of the regular season was skipped Sunday, will instead get the ball for Game Three Sunday in Anaheim.

A Game Two start would have put Schilling on pace to start a potential—and decisive—Game Five Oct. 10 on four days rest. But Francona said the Sox believe Schilling—who turns 41 in November and spent more than six weeks on the disabled list this year with shoulder woes—is much more effective when well-rested. Assuming there are changes to the schedule, Schilling will take the mound Sunday on 11 days of rest.

He had eight days of rest prior to his final regular season start Sept. 25, when he allowed one run on six hits and no walks while striking out six—his most whiffs in nine starts since returning from the disabled list.

"What it probably comes down to the most is I think we—and when I say we, I'm talking about [pitching coach] John Farrell, Theo [Epstein] and myself and ‘Schill' himself too—probably got the most bang for the buck when he was in the down period [during his DL stint]," Francona said. "Then he went out in those Triple-A starts and the ball probably came out of his hand better than it did at any period over the year.

"We're trying to gear up for two-and-a-half, three weeks of starts. And we're hoping this will be the best way to get the maximum Schilling."

Starting Game Three means Schilling will make his first postseason start since 2004 at the stadium where he unwittingly wrote the first chapter of his epic '04 playoff run. Schilling started Game One of the 2004 ALDS in Anaheim and tore a tendon in his right ankle while running to cover first base. He endured a poor start against the Yankees in Game One of the ALCS before, of course, undergoing the revolutionary suturing process that allowed him to start and excel in Game Six of the ALCS and Game Two of the World Series against the Cardinals.

Matsuzaka, meanwhile, performed better on the road (7-8 with a 4.02 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 112 innings) than at home (8-4 with a 4.86 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 92 2/3 innings) this season and struggled down the stretch (2-1 with a 7.62 ERA in five September starts).

But the Sox were encouraged by his final regular season outing Friday, when he allowed two runs and struck out eight over eight innings in beating the Twins, and Francona said he believes Matsuzaka may have an advantage over the Angels because he didn't face them this season. Schilling posted a 4.05 ERA in three starts against the Angels.

"The unfamiliarity, I think, definitely favors the pitcher the first time around," Francona said. "I think that's always the case. You can watch video all you want, and our hitters talk about it: Until you've seen somebody in the batter's box, it's just not quite the same."

Josh Beckett will start Game One of the ALDS Wednesday against John Lackey. Francona said he wasn't ready yet to announce the rest of the Sox' roster, preferring to wait until at least after a marathon meeting with Epstein, his staff and Sox scouts Monday night.


Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, please CLICK HERE.

Diehard Magazine Top Stories