Bottom of the seventh. One on. Nobody out. Schilling, who looked tarnished going after his fifth win in as many starts tonight, faced down his nemesis at the plate. Schilling was at 100-plus pitches going into the inning; I'm less critical of Terry Francona than many, but I was wondering (aloud) what he was doing there.
Grady Sizemore singled, scoring a run. The tying run.
Foulke was warming, but no movement from the skipper. Curt and I gave the same sigh, he on the mound shrugging his heavy shoulders, me on my couch shaking my head in exasperation. But he was out there, for better or for worse.
"You'll hardly ever see Schilling taken out in the middle of an inning, unless he gives up the go-ahead run," Remy commented.
I wondered why. I suppose as a veteran, and a proven veteran at that, Schilling's understanding with Francona is that he'll be allowed to work out of jams. But wasn't giving up the tying run on the second batter of the inning a textbook case of not working out of the jam? Foulke was warm. All that remained was for Francona to come out, right arm extended, and then maybe we'd get some outs.
But still, Schilling was delivering home and throwing pickoff attempt after pickoff attempt at Sizemore on first. He was up to 130 pitches, and it being only his fifth start, I grew, shall we say, a bit concerned. Okay, I actually had an hysterical hallucination that I could hear his rotator cuff fraying like an old rope with groans and snaps from here*.
And yet on Schilling pitched. I puzzled over Francona's decision. There were many, I'm sure, hucking beer cans at the television across New England as Schilling shuffled onward, but I preferred to remain just...curious.
Right then, just after I settled back to see what would happen in Jason Michaels' at-bat, Jason Michaels lined right into Schilling's glove. Schilling wheeled and threw to first, doubling off Sizemore. Thank you very much.
Now, of course, Terry looked a little smarter. Pssht. Of coahse the big guy's gonna get out've it. I could hear the remarks in various dark Irish bars. Coahse. And a shrug and sip of the Sam Adams.
Realistically, though, both Tito and Curt got lucky. Scary lucky. What are the odds of a liner right into Curt's glove at that moment?
Not lucky: Foulke finally putting a merciful end to the inning, with a lovely bit of poetry in his strikeout of Travis Hafner--he did it with the changeup Hafner had lost in the right-field corner at Fenway last year for a fateful grand slam.
Also. How hilarious was Sauerback with his one pitch to Ortiz? Who was the one hitter he'd been brought in to get? What do you even do if you're that guy?
But then, there we were again. One on. Two out. A run had scored. And then, inexplicably, now Francona was coming out to get Foulke, arm extended for another righty from the bullpen...Timlin?
True, Foulke had let a run score. But I don't believe for a second that he's so psychologically or physically fragile, especially after his showing in Toronto on Sunday, that he can't be called upon to work his way out of such a thing. On the other hand, the team needs to see what it's got to work with in Timlin, too. So once again, my jury was out on Francona. And once again I decided to wait.
Timlin immediately gave up a walk. He looked like he had in Toronto--like he was pitching blindfolded, feeling in the dark for the plate. I sighed as I had with Schilling. I could hear my father in my head ranting about "Whiplash" (his affectionate name for Mike Timlin, or, at least, the early-season Mike Timlin, who seems to always be a launching pad before buckling down as things go on, at least in my admittedly unscientific memory).
Here came Sizemore again. He worked the count full, and then more beer cans were lifting off around the region--some of them, this time, probably full.
And then...inexplicably...Sizemore swung at ball four, fouling it off. Something about it seemed to be blood in the water for Timlin, who reared back and got a beautiful swinging strike to seal the at-bat and end the inning.
Pssht. Coahse. Coahse Timlin got'm out. I mean...Pssht.
Of course, if Schilling or Timlin had gotten shelled, calls for Tito's head would probably already have begun in earnest. Is it really that easy? On the other hand, is it necessarily any more complex?
Regardless, it was another not-lucky moment that ultimately sewed up the game for the Sox: after the Indians pitched around Ortiz to get to Manny (apparently they haven't gotten the memo that Manny's pretty much hitting again), Manny unloaded on Guillermo Mota, a three-run homer to the opposite field, while no doubt Cleveland fans cried into their feathered headdresses about why this guy ever got away.
Manny trotted the bases, a simple and uncomplicated figure in that moment--a hitting machine, a man born to hit, a man paid to hit for us, and so: we win. The end.** (Well, okay, we also have Chucky, so we also win there.)
Francona was once asked what made a good manager. "Good players," he answered, without hesitation. He's given to self-deprecating humor, but I'm pretty sure he meant that one.
* For the record, THE ECK also worried about Schilling's health in the postgame show.
** If you wanted to cloud the issue, it could also be argued that Manny's space-cadet antics on the basepaths, specifically that trainwreck double-play in the third, brought back his hitting prowess--but of course, correlation is not causation.