I couldn't do it.
By quitting time at work yesterday, I was beat. So beat, in fact, that I entertained the notion of napping until game time. But errands, supper, and life in general took that option off the table, so by 10 pm, I had resolved to at least watch Curt's innings. By then, barely able to keep my eyes open, I decided on a compromise: I would doze during the top halves of innings and wake back up again for the bottom halves to watch Curt.
This worked much better than you could probably reasonably expect--I actually managed to do it for three innings.
The last thing I remember is Kevin Youkilis's home run. When I next woke up, wondering how many innings I'd missed, the house was dark and quiet, my fiancee was sound asleep in bed (I had informed him of my plan to stay up on the couch), and the TV was still on, but it wasn't the game. I had woken up just in time for Curt's postgame press conference. Blearily, I watched long enough to take in that they'd lost, that Curt had given up the runs, and then shut it off, staggering into my bedroom to sleep the rest of the night.
I am still kicking myself that I couldn't find a way to watch all of that game. It's such an important start from Curt that it deserves to be analyzed and picked apart in minute detail. Unfortunately, all I can offer are a few impressions from the innings I managed to catch.
One thing I will say is that Curt's body language pre-game and walking out to the mound were very different from what I remember. He had the air of someone who has something VERY IMPORTANT to say but who has been prevented from saying it until it was his turn. He was working very quickly, and looking very tense--in fact, it was only in retrospect that I realized what was so weird about his overall demeanor: it was probably the first time in my recollection I've seen him look so nervous.
I hate to say it, but there it is. I've seen Curt triumphant, pissed off, celebratory, intense, anxious, hyped up, any number of things prior to a game and as he begins to work. I've never seen exactly this level of wide-eyed tension, shoulders hunched up to his ears. His walk was even like that--jerky, quick steps. It's safe to say that he did not look comfortable.
Still, he held the advantage in those innings I saw. I didn't see how he looked right before giving up the homer, so I don't know if that means anything or not.
I also noticed, in those first innings, that his velocity was not spectacular. He'd been topping out at 93 in his rehab appearances; last night the fastball was hovering around 90 and 91. Cut fastballs were around 88, which is normal, at least for this season, splits were variable. In particular I thought the split was the strongest pitch--I recall him getting swings and misses at least early on, though he commented later that his split wasn't consistent, and I gather it was a hanging split that turned into the home run later on.
Afterwards in the press conference, he was talking a mile a minute as usual but did not seem overly stressed or upset. He commented that both his split and curveball were less consistent than they had been in rehab starts, but generally looked upbeat.
I really don't know what to make of it. (And Curt hasn't written yet to confirm or deny any of my armchair analysis.) It was disappointing, to be sure--I had allowed myself to entertain the notion that the blood-and-iron Curt of 2004 might reappear last night, and barring that, at least the reasonably dominant Curt of last season. It wasn't a horrific outing, but it certainly was not stellar. Four runs is not a huge number, and of course it may have just been a matter of our offense tanking it.
Then again, this was one of the very, very few instances in his Red Sox career in which Curt Schilling started a big game (it was at least big for him, and big for the team if you consider what he means down the stretch) and did not come through. It's hard to know how to feel about that.