KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- We will not credit Curt Schilling for world peace or a cure for the common cold. Nor will we say he saved the season. What he did in a seven-inning outing in an 8-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals last night was bring some stability back to a starting rotation that was wobbly over the previous nine games. Whether the stability was confined to one night or whether it will rub off on Derek Lowe today and the remainder of the starters on the next homestand when interleague play begins is what bears watching.
"You hope it does [snowball]," said Schilling, who improved to 7-3. "With good rotations, it does. It's a matter of us getting consistent. That's top to bottom in our rotation. We've been more good than bad, but we've got to get more consistent."
Maybe by October this performance will be dwarfed by many other games in the second half of the season, but consider the starters' 7.98 ERA over the previous nine games and this one was big.
Pedro Martinez has struggled with his mechanics. Lowe has struggled with everything. Tim Wakefield has been up and down. Bronson Arroyo has been roughed up in his last three starts. Byung Hyun Kim is somewhere in South Korea.
The Red Sox had fallen a season-high 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees. The smiles had vanished. It was clear Schilling needed to respond.
He pitched seven solid innings, though he looked awfully tired in the seventh, allowing three runs overall. There was no horror story to be told on this night. Call him the stopper. "Sure, I love that," he said. "You want guys to be able to count on you to stop streaks. I knew I was going to have to pitch well. We played great defense and getting the lead early helped."
Johnny Damon could feel the difference with Schilling on the mound. "We knew he was going to be on. He's been our go-to guy." And while the offense provided Schilling with a two-run lead in the first inning, he wasn't happy with himself when he gave one back in the bottom half of the inning on a 445-foot home run by Mike Sweeney.
"But I settled in after that," said Schilling. "I'm disappointed with the way I finished again. I'm disappointed with the way I've been pitching after the sixth inning, but it's a win. We'd like to get on a little roll and get back to the team we really are. I don't know if it takes pressure off, but we needed this one."
Schilling revealed that many of the pitchers came to Kauffman Stadium on Thursday's offday to get in some work. "It's stuff you guys don't see," Schilling said. "We were here for a couple of hours on the offday working on some things. Everybody is doing what they have to do to hold up their end."
Upon signing with the Sox, Schilling knew he was going to be part of a formidable 1-2 punch with Martinez, as he had been with the Diamondbacks with Randy Johnson. So far, that hasn't worked out, as Martinez has struggled. "In Arizona, I think we went almost two years without losing back-to-back games," said Schilling of himself and Johnson. "I take a lot of pride in that. Good rotations do that. You set the bar and when you have talented starters like we do, you go out and try to raise the bar.
"Right now, I'm not pitching as well as I know I can. There are a lot of different reasons. I don't feel I'm anywhere near throwing as well or as consistent as I should be, which, I guess, is a positive. I don't want to sound like I'm frustrated. We're still trying to pin down how to get this [ankle] thing pinned down and situated in between every start. It's a combination of things."
Schilling has had a tender ankle for most of the season.
"Right now I have to [take numbing shots]," he said. "My arm feels so great right now, this is just a little hiccup that prevents me from being as consistent as I can be." No, it was not vintage Schilling. But it was a performance of note; a performance of necessity; a performance by a pitcher who carried the weight of the staff on his shoulders.