"I'd like to go out [Sunday] and do something better and be able to throw it back at him," Schilling told reporters.
Schilling wasn't better than Beckett, but he was plenty impressive as the Red Sox moved on to the American League Championship Series for the first time since 2004 following a 9-1 win over the Angels Sunday at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA.
The Sox swept the best-of-five ALDS three games to none and will begin the American League Championship Series Friday at Fenway against the winner of the Indians-Yankees series.
"I guess my preference would be that they play for about another eight days and go 20 innings every game," Francona told reporters afterward.
The Sox will be plenty rested: By the time the ALCS opens, they'll have played three games in a span of 12 days. "We'll take tomorrow off and we'll get right back to working out the next day and get ready to play baseball," Francona said.
Schilling, who was pitching on 11 days rest and appearing in the playoffs for the first time since he pitched Game Two of the 2004 World Series on his badly injured right ankle, was certainly ready Sunday. He scattered six hits and a walk while whiffing four over seven shutout innings and throwing 76 of his 100 pitches for strikes. He battled out of jams in the third, when the Angles loaded the bases with two outs before Schilling retired Reggie Willits on a pop out to Jason Varitek, and the seventh, when, with the Sox nursing a 2-0 lead, he struck out Mike Napoli to strand Chone Figgins at third.
It was Schilling's finest performance since he returned from a six-week DL stint in early August and began to morph into a more resourceful pitcher. "When you throw strikes with all your pitches and stay out of the middle of the plate, that's a real good formula for success," Francona said. "He used to be able to reach back and sometimes hit 97, 98. When you're throwing less than that, your margin for error is less. But he didn't forget how to pitch. He didn't forget how to compete and he didn't forget how to locate.
"Pretty impressive game."
And a pretty impressive series for the Sox, whose sweep of the Angels was as dominant as it was effective. The Sox outscored the Angels 19-4 and trailed for all of three innings (the second through fourth frames in Game Two Friday).
Beckett and Schilling combined to allow just 10 hits in 16 shutout innings and threw 159 of their 208 pitches for strikes. Daisuke Matsuzaka struggled in Game Two, but a quartet of relievers combined to no-hit the Angels over the final 4 1/3 innings. The Angels scored in just two innings—the second inning Friday and the ninth inning Sunday.
"Our staff executed," Francona said. "Our starters, our relievers, I thought, from Beckett all the way through to the end, they did a very good job."
Offensively, the middle of the order of David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell hit a robust .454 (11-of-24) with four homers, 10 RBI, 12 walks and three strikeouts. Ortiz, who won AL Player of the Month honors in September, stayed red-hot by reaching base in 11 of his 13 plate appearances (two homers, three singles and six walks).
Ortiz and Ramirez jump-started the Sox in the fourth inning Sunday, when they hit back-to-back homers for the first time this season. That was it for the Sox until the eighth, when they tattooed a trio of Angels relievers for seven runs to put the game away.
"I think in big games like this, you need your big guys to come through," Lowell told reporters. "And they do it time and time again. Big moments…I think those two basically set the tone all three games with their bats. And that's why they're superstars. That's why they hit third and fourth and we lean on them. We're going to need them if we want to go all the way."
After Sunday, they're one step closer.
Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at email@example.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, please CLICK HERE.
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