Things turn ugly for Sox in latest loss
He was sitting and waiting as the media walked into the Fenway Park interview room minutes after a 12-2 Red Sox' loss to the Rockies last night, his hands folded, his blue button-down shirt crisp, and his manner all but screaming his desire to get this done, fast.
Curt Schilling was not in the mood for reflecting last night. He was in the mood for answering questions, quickly, and heading home. For his start was a far cry from the one that was one out away from being a no-hitter last Thursday.
Betrayed by his defense twice in the first two innings -- Julio Lugo and Mike Lowell were the culprits -- and assured there would be no repeat of last week by the time the first batter of the game reached first base (and then second base and then home), Schilling allowed that the game "started off weird, got it under control, and then just kind of let it get away."
In a series of frustrating ways. With all the runs allowed by Schilling -- six total, five earned -- coming with two outs, that one-out-away sensation permeated the start.
Having allowed singles to the first two batters of the fifth inning, Schilling seemed on his way to getting out of it with Brad Hawpe coming to the plate. But all it took was a single pitch, a changeup, which Hawpe deposited into the right-field stands for a 6-2 lead.
"We played a sloppy first two innings, all the way around, but we settled in," Schilling said. "It was a very winnable game until Hawpe's at-bat in the fifth."
Or, as Jason Varitek put it, "We made one mistake, and it's a three-run homer. Outside of that, he would have left us in the game, completely, with a chance to come back."
Before that home run, it was 3-2, and the 36,808 in attendance still likely felt confident that it would be Rockies starter Josh Fogg (1-5, 5.06 ERA coming in) and not Schilling who would fall apart. But it wasn't only the three-run shot that put the game out of reach. The three runs in the first and second innings contributed, both times aided by an error.
First there was the ball thrown away by Lugo on Willy Taveras's single to open the game. Then there was the suddenly shaky Lowell's 12th error of the season (his career high is 14). A single by Kaz Matsui brought home the second run, and Lowell's errant throw allowed Troy Tulowitzki to score the third.
Frustrating? Of course.
"Because you're one pitch away," Schilling said. "I mean, you're one pitch away every at-bat, every hitter. You're one pitch away. Not being able to make that, it means just a dramatic difference because a lot of times you make those pitches."
Sometimes, like last night, you don't. And with Schilling's stuff over the first few innings of his near no-hitter not even ranking among his best, the differences between the outings, according to Varitek, were slighter than one might imagine.
"Not too much different," Varitek said. "Some balls found some holes. We gave some extra base runners. And we weren't able to make that pitch with two outs today. They did a good job of hitting with two outs."
In what appeared to be a mismatch -- Schilling coming off a one-hitter, Fogg coming off a six-run outing -- the Rockies were the ones to have success on a night more suited for October. The Red Sox, meanwhile, continued to have trouble scoring, getting two or fewer runs for the sixth time in eight games.
"Not in a nutshell," manager Terry Francona said of a possible reason for the offensive shutdown. "It's probably a lot of various, different reasons. That's just the season. It happens.
"That's why you need to win some games, 2-1, because you don't always go out and knock the ball all over the ballpark."
And though Lowell hit his 12th homer in the second and Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, and Manny Ramírez produced another run with consecutive singles in the third, that wouldn't be enough on a night when Schilling just couldn't get that third out in multiple innings.
Of course, those who followed him did no better, with three more two-out runs coming in a sixth inning in which Kyle Snyder walked the bases loaded and Javier Lopez allowed a Todd Helton double to clear them.
Those runs and the runs after, three more off Joel Piñeiro in the eighth, were just piling on. In retrospect, the villain was that changeup, the one whose development was the focus of Schilling's spring training, the one whose last sighting came as it settled into the seats in right field.
"Probably better than it should be," Schilling said of his confidence in the pitch. "[Varitek] called the first-pitch split, and I can throw the changeup off the pitch, and I just thought it was the perfect situation for it, and I left it up and I knew as soon as he hit it."
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.