Wednesday, April 13, 2005

GameDay: New York 5, Boston 2

The final numbers on Curt Schilling's 2005 debut: 5 2/3ds innings, 9 hits, 5 earned runs, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts, 2 homers allowed, and an 0-1 record.

They ain't, as the West Virginia Pittsnogles undoubtedly like to say, "purdy." And you know what? I'm cool with it. And you know why? Because I saw glimpses of the old familiar greatness in Schilling tonight, glimpses that reassured me that he's healthy and ready to be the ace again soon enough.

In the first inning, Schilling's fastball was "hot," as that wonderful wordsmith The Eck noted postgame. He overwhelmed leadoff hitter Tony Womack, then smoked two high fastballs by Captain Jetes - a rare occurence - before sending his overwhelmed Intangibles back to the dugout on a called strike three.

Schilling had his top-shelf stuff early, and the Sox went into the sixth tied, 2-2. Then, his fuel gauge hit empty, a less than shocking development considering it was his first legitimate mound foray since Game 2 of the World Series five months ago. He gave up a two-run bomb to Jason Giambi (things that make you go hmmm: Juicin' G is as big as ever) and a solo shot to the decomposing Bernie Williams, a surefire sign that he'd lost about four feet off his fastball.

Tito Francona lifted Schilling after 108 pitches - or about 20 too late. And while the bullpen acquitted itself well - Blaine Neal in particular, and, yes I think this guy is trying to mess with now - the Classy But Still Evil Yankees held on for the win.

It was Jaret Wright, tonight's Yankee starter, who earned the victory. He also earned something far more prestigious - frontrunner status for the Ed Whitson Award, an annual dishonor foisted upon the Yankee pitcher who has been successful elsewhere but melts like the Wicked Witch of the West (no, that's not a Suzyn Waldman reference) under the scorching Bronx heatlamps.

Past winners include Kenny (Know When To Fold 'Em) Rogers, Jeff Weaver, and last year's co-recipients, Javier Vazquez and Kevin Brown. Forget Jim Nantz's bleatings: this is a tradition unlike any other.

Wright throws peas, but when he gets in trouble, he starts stomping around the mound and overthrowing, classic symptoms of the often incurable malady Million-Dollar-Arm/Plug-Nickel-Head-itis. The Sox - particularly Papi, enduring a rare off-night against the Yankees - let him off the hook.

The Sox scratch out one timely hit, Wright's head pops like a bloated tick, and who knows how many crooked numbers they'd have put up on the scoreboard. That hit never came, but the Sox posse will catch up to Wright before the summer is through. And it won't be purdy.

So there it is. Schilling lost, Wright won, and Sox fans should be encouraged by all of it.

Yep, still April.