Schilling loses control in opener

Schilling loses control in opener

KANSAS CITY -- For the clearest indication of just how awry Opening Day had gone for the Red Sox, all you had to do was see lefty reliever Javy Lopez take the mound to start the bottom of the fifth inning. With all due respect to Lopez, he broke camp as the 12th man on Boston's pitching staff.

This was just the way it was for the Red Sox on a disappointing Monday that saw ace Curt Schilling (four innings, eight hits, five earned runs) suffer his earliest knockout in 285 starts, dating back to Aug. 26, 1997, when he also went four innings against the Reds. It added up to a 7-1 loss to the Royals on a gorgeous afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, there wasn't a whole lot to enjoy besides the weather. Gil Meche, Kansas City's heralded free-agent signing, stifled the Boston bats to the tune of six hits and one run over 7 1/3 innings. Mark Grudzielanek (3-for-5, two runs, three RBIs) led the Kansas City attack.

Of all the things the Red Sox anticipated for Opening Day, Schilling being so ineffective was nowhere on the list.

The explanation?

"No fastball command," Schilling said. "I did not adjust. I can't remember ever having that be the case. I just didn't adjust. I knew early on I wasn't commanding my fastball well. I never made the adjustment."

Who knew the day was going to take such a sour turn? David Ortiz, Boston's production machine, drove home Kevin Youkilis with an RBI double to left in the top of the first. Little did the Red Sox know it at the time, but that would be their highlight of the day.

The Royals got the run right back against Schilling in the bottom of the first, as the right-hander walked Ryan Shealy with the bases loaded. It was just the sixth time in Schilling's career he has forced in a run with a walk, and the first since Aug. 7, 2005, at Minnesota.

"For him, he's so pinpoint," said Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. "I'm not really too worried about his location for the season. He'll be fine. I would have bet my house he wouldn't walk a guy with the bases loaded, but it happens."

Schilling needed 33 pitches to get through the inning.

Then a bad thing happened for the Sox. Meche got locked in.

"We had a good first inning and then he settled down, and started throwing his offspeed pitches for strikes," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Got the shadows out. He really put us away pretty efficiently. He had a long first inning. After that, he was pretty good."

opening day 2007

Tony Pena Jr. started another Royals rally in the second by ripping a one-out triple to center. Grudzielanek, a nemesis all day, gave the hosts their first lead with an RBI single to right.

Once again, Grudzielanek was heard from in the fourth. This time, he roped a two-run double to right. Mark Teahen followed with an RBI single up the middle and the Sox were suddenly in a 5-1 hole.

Schilling slipped to 3-1 lifetime in seven Opening Day starts. The last time Schilling went fewer than four innings in a start was a two-inning performance at San Diego on July 18, 2001. But that was out of his control, thanks to a power outage at Qualcomm Stadium.

Being reduced to spectator status for the final five innings was as odd a feeling as Schilling has had in his time with the Red Sox.

"It's been a long time since I haven't gotten through five, I know that," said Schilling. "It was just one of those games where I stunk and didn't improve and then got worse."

Following Schilling's exit, there wasn't much drama. Perhaps the most noteworthy event came when John Buck deposited Hideki Okajima's first Major League pitch over the wall in center for a solo homer in the sixth.

"First pitch didn't go as we planned," said Francona. "He's trying to get ahead and Buck hit it good. After that, he was actually pretty good. He gave us an inning-plus, which we needed at that point of the game."

The Red Sox, down 6-1, produced one promising rally, only to see it hit a dead end. Dustin Pedroia and Julio Lugo produced singles and the Sox, with two on and one out in the eighth, had the meat of the order coming up.

But Royals reliever Joel Peralta struck out Youkilis and Ortiz.

"Gil Meche pitched a great game," said Youkilis. "He was throwing all his pitches for strikes. It was one of those days, it's only one game. Hopefully it's the last day we're in last place for the rest of the year."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.