After injuries and disappointing seasons hampered two of the best pitchers from the 1990s in recent years, the aces will look to continue their Cy Young-caliber seasons Thursday night in the last game of Boston's nine-game homestand.
Despite being one of the best pitchers in baseball to have never won a Cy Young Award, Schilling cannot seem to look over his shoulder recently without seeing the elusive prize looming over him.
In addition to his matchup with Glavine (the 1991 and 1998 Cy Young Award winner), Schilling has also squared off with the Minnesota Twins' Johan Santana (the 2002 winner) and the Atlanta Braves' John Smoltz (the 1996 winner) in the last 17 days.
He's hooked up with some established good pitchers. I think he's always been this way, at least since I've been around him," Francona said. "He knows who he's facing and I think he relishes trying to be better. I don't think that's being disrespectful, to the point that he respects how good his opponent is, but he wants to be better. That's a very good feeling when you're in the same uniform.
"It doesn't mean their guy is not good. We know he's good, but when you can go toe-to-toe and think you can still win, that's a really good feeling. ... I think Schill has a very good understanding of what needs to be done in those types of games."
Francona seems not to be the slightest bit surprised by the crafty veterans' ability to tap the fountain of youth.
"I think these guys have been good for a long time, and then sometimes when older pitchers get nicked up a little bit like Schill was last year, that explains it. The reason they've been so good is their will and their work ethic and how they come back," Francona said. "When [Glavine] first went to New York, [he was] not the way he had been. Now he's back doing what he's supposed to do, and as long as they're healthy, I'm not sure age really matters to these guys that much."
Despite stellar performances in his last three starts, Schilling has yet to secure his 10th win of the season. In his last outing, Schilling allowed three runs over six innings, striking out a season-high 10 batters against Philadelphia on Saturday. He has allowed three runs or less in his last five starts and has not lost a decision since May 10. He has been dominant at Fenway going 5-0 with a 2.79 ERA.
With Boston's defense leading the Majors in fielding percentage this season, including a current 15-game consecutive errorless streak that has set a team record, Schilling has begun relying on the seven men behind him as much as he relies on himself, throwing more two-seam fastballs than he normally has in the past.
"[If] they're going to be in the ground, you got [Mike] Lowell, [Mark] Loretta, [Kevin Youkilis], [Alex Gonzalez]," Francona said. "It makes you a lot more efficient. That's one of our strengths, and he's smart enough to use it. I give him credit for that."
This is the sixth series between the teams since Interleague Play began in 1997 and their first meeting since 2001. The Red Sox are 12-12 all-time against the Mets, including postseason.
Winners of 11 straight, the Red Sox are 13-1 against the National League this year while the Mets are 5-6 in Interleague Play.
BOS: RHP Curt Schilling (9-2, 3.61 ERA)
Schilling has allowed three earned runs or less in his last five starts, but he has been unable to secure his 10th win of the season in three tries. In his last outing against Philadelphia, Schilling allowed three runs and eight hits with a season-high 10 strikeouts in six innings.
NYM: LHP Tom Glavine (11-2, 3.33 ERA)
Glavine's luck is improving even as his performances are not. But he is winning -- nine straight decisions -- when he pitches well and even when he doesn't. The Blue Jays were the game's best-hitting team against left-handed pitchers, and he tamed them Friday night in Toronto. The native New Englander goes to Fenway Park for his 17th start.
Player to watch
Lowell is batting .375 (6-for-16) in his last four games and has two home runs in his last three games. He is batting .328 (19-for-58) with three home runs in his career against Glavine.
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Official game notes
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Friday: Red Sox (RHP Jason Johnson, 3-8, 5.96) at Marlins (LHP Dontrelle Willis, 4-7, 4.05), 7:35 p.m. ET
Saturday: Red Sox (RHP Tim Wakefield, 5-8, 3.86) at Marlins (RHP Brian Moehler, 5-6, 6.55), 6:05 p.m. ET
Sunday: Red Sox (LHP Jon Lester, 3-0, 2.95) at Marlins (RHP Josh Johnson, 7-4, 2.20), 1:05 p.m. ET