The last time Curt Schilling's name was next to W in the box score was on the occasion of his near no-hitter at Oakland, a masterful performance that didn't much resemble last night's outing.
After spending eight weeks on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis, Schilling remains a work in progress. In his third start since returning from the DL, Schilling got the win -- his first since the one-hit shutout June 7 -- in the Red Sox' 10-5 victory last night over the Angels, but after allowing five runs in six innings, he acknowledged that his game was not where it needs to be.
"My fastball's got to change," Schilling said. "I've got to be more concerned about commanding the ball and keeping it down in the strike zone than throwing it hard."
Schilling's outing was, by his own estimation, a mix of mistakes and tough breaks.
In the first inning, he hung a curveball to Orlando Cabrera that the ex-Red Sox shortstop crushed off the top of the Wall for a double. Schilling then got Vladimir Guerrero to ground toward Kevin Youkilis at third, but Youkilis had to get out of the way of Guerrero's flying broken bat, allowing the ball through for a single and Cabrera to advance to third. Cabrera scored on Garret Anderson's fielder's choice.
In the second, Schilling looked like he was going to get out of the inning unscathed, but Reggie Willits hit a grounder up the middle with two outs that barely escaped a sliding Julio Lugo, scoring Casey Kotchman from second.
"Second inning, it all boils down to Reggie Willits putting together another great at-bat and hitting a pitch probably in the 3 square feet of infield he could have hit it to get it through," Schilling said.
Then Schilling threw a fastball to Chone Figgins that was supposed to be down and away but was up and in, and Figgins lofted it just out of J.D. Drew's reach by Pesky's Pole for a home run, just his third of the season.
"That, to me, just kind of puts out there for everybody to see how inconsistently bad my fastball command has been," Schilling said. "I missed by probably 3 feet."
The veteran righthander's last run allowed of the night came in the fifth on a splitter at Guerrero's ankles that he knocked into the first row of Monster seats.
"He's the only guy in baseball who does that," Sox manager Terry Francona said of Guerrero. "That's the respect you need to have for Vlad because of what he can do. If he can reach it, he can hit it out of the ballpark."
Well, maybe not the only guy. Schilling recalled throwing a similar low splitter to Alfonso Soriano in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series (when Schilling was with the Diamondbacks and Soriano with the Yankees) that Soriano deposited in the seats.
Plus, Schilling said last night's pitch wasn't exactly where he hoped.
"I wanted to bounce it, so it wasn't a good pitch in that sense," Schilling said.
Guerrero's blast gave the visitors a five-run lead, and it looked as if Schilling would remain winless since his return. But a six-spot from the Sox in the bottom of the fifth helped Schilling's cause, and he exited with a 6-5 lead, having thrown 85 pitches. Francona went to Mike Timlin, electing not to take any chances with a fatigued Schilling.
"Seems like at least this year, when we send him back out if there's indecision it ends up going the other way," Francona said.
The exit kept Schilling's postrehab pace -- he has thrown six innings in each of his three starts since returning from the DL, with a combined 4.50 ERA.
The 40-year-old said he's still adjusting to age and how it affects him, especially with his fastball. For now, he'll take a win any way it comes.
"I don't have the consistent low-to-mid-90s velocity and I have to be much more of a pitcher now," Schilling said. "It's difficult to figure out how all the pieces work together for me right now with the curveball, the slider, the split, change, and fastball, and having to use them all, as someone who used to go out there and be fastball, split, mix a couple sliders in there, and that's how it works.
"Now, it's a process. I'm trying to do it in the scope of winning ballgames, which makes it somewhat difficult. But the onus is on me. I feel like I'm good enough mentally, physically to do that."
Daniel Malloy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.