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Sox look to even series

Sox look to even series

The weekend's Red Sox-Yankees series lost an iota of fanfare, if that's even possible, when the Yankees pushed back the debut start of Roger Clemens two days.

Now New York's $28-million acquisition will face the White Sox on Monday instead of the Red Sox on Saturday. Instead of a dream duel between Clemens and Curt Schilling, who admired the former as a Boston farmhand in the late '80s, the Fenway faithful will endure a matchup between Schilling and fellow 200-game winner Mike Mussina, another potential Hall of Famer.

"I know the media would love to have it," quipped Yankees manager Joe Torre about Schilling-Clemens. "You'll have to be stuck with Schilling and Moose."

No shame, really -- especially if Mussina is as effective with his new personal catcher, Wil Nieves, as Torre thinks he is. Especially if Schilling's rediscovered split-finger fastball is as much of a revelation as he knows it is.

In his postgame interview on Monday, Schilling credited extra work with Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell for his seven-inning, one-run, 10-strikeout gem against the Cleveland Indians. The return of the splitter prompted him to pen a 2,444-word ode to the pitch and its return on his blog, 38 Pitches.

"First inning starts," Schilling wrote of that start against the Indians, "and it's clear that the 1997 version of my split has decided to show up.

"We end up striking out the side, all on splits," he continued, adding that the pitch had "not been splitting for a very long time.

"The bottom line was that the pitch was acting like it's supposed to."

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said Schilling's last consistently dominant splitter predated even his star pitcher's World Series-winning days in Boston and Arizona. Francona saw the pitch regularly -- it was "devastating," he said -- when he managed Schilling for the Philadelphia Phillies.

"For him to get that split back, if it comes and stays on a consistent basis, that would be terrific for us," Francona said.

And just as nice for the fans.

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP Mike Mussina (2-3, 5.86 ERA)
Mussina has thrown 344 career innings against the Red Sox, far more than he has thrown against any other team, with a 3.58 ERA. But he has struggled in recent years, posting a 5.25 ERA since Boston's World Series season, spanning 11 starts. This year, he owns a 2.60 ERA in 17 1/3 innings with backup catcher Nieves starting and a 9.00 ERA in 18 innings with Jorge Posada behind the plate. Nieves will start on Saturday.

BOS: RHP Curt Schilling (5-2, 3.68 ERA)
His famed 2004 ALCS performance notwithstanding, Schilling has actually struggled against the Yankees' deep lineups of recent years, posting a 4.73 career ERA against the Bombers. If Schilling pitches as he did in his last start, that fact could prove irrelevant. The 20-year Major League veteran struck out 10 Indians in seven innings on Monday and had Francona reminiscing about the split-fingered fastball of Schilling's Philadelphia years.

Player to watch
Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano had 14 hits in his last 40 at-bats entering Friday, when he slugged a second-inning home run off Boston starter Tim Wakefield. He owns a .391 career average against Schilling in 22 at-bats.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FOX

On radio
• WRKO-680 AM, Spanish Baseball Network (Espanol)

Up next
• Sunday: Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 8-0, 2.65) vs. Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 3-4, 2.51), 8:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Red Sox (Julian Tavarez, 3-4, 5.40) at Athletics (Dan Haren, 6-2, 1.64), 10:05 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka, 7-3, 4.83) at Athletics (Lenny DiNardo, 1-2, 1.80), 10:05 p.m. ET

Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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