Schilling takes loss in return from DL

Schilling takes loss in return from DL

ANAHEIM -- In Boston's march to the postseason, Monday's night 4-2 loss to the Angels in Anaheim had major significance. It not only matched up the two teams with the best records in the baseball in a potential postseason preview, but more importantly to the Red Sox, it featured the return of their ace, Curt Schilling, to the rotation.

Having spent the last 59 days on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right shoulder, Schilling was happy to be back on the mound and the Sox were happy to have him there. The question was -- would he be as effective as he was before the shoulder problem, and the answer to that question is unfortunately, yes, as Schilling once again was inconsistent with his breaking pitches.

As far as his health, any concerns seem to have been dissipated, as Schilling said that he felt fine after the game.

"The bigger question," he said, "and I don't see any reason it won't be fine, but how do I feel tomorrow?"

Over the course of just over six innings, Schilling threw 83 pitches, and while he wasn't lighting up the radar gun, manager Terry Francona was impressed.

"I saw a few of the numbers," Francona said, "but to me he looked like he was throwing some pitches harder than Jered Weaver."

Schilling struck out five and didn't walk a batter.

After giving up a single to Angels leadoff hitter Chone Figgins, Schilling retired the next eight batters he faced, before Figgins once again touched him up, this time for a two-out triple. No damage was done, however, as Schilling was able to strand him at third.

When Kevin Youkilis hit his 12th home run of the season with Dustin Pedroia on board, the Red Sox had a 2-0 lead and the night had all the makings of a perfect return.

"He commanded his fastball pretty well," said Francona, adding that he thought Schilling, "Looked pretty good and his pitch count was pretty economical. The more he pitches with health, the sharper he'll be."

The problem was with the splitter, which caused all the damage Monday night.

In the bottom of the fourth, Schilling ran into trouble as Vladimir Guerrero singled up the middle off of Schilling's index finger.

"It caught the tip of the finger. It stung for a bit, but it really wasn't a factor," Schilling said.

What was a factor was Schilling's hanging sliders to Gary Matthews Jr. and Casey Kotchman, which allowed the Angels to tie the score at 2.

The score remained tied at 2 until the bottom of the seventh, when Schilling hung two more sliders, one of them to Maicer Izturis, who took it out of the ballpark for a 3-2 Angels lead. When Jeff Mathis hit the next hanger for a double, Schilling's night was over.

Francona said that though he thought about taking Schilling out after six, but "I didn't know if I could have come up with a good enough reason to take him out of the game."

"It boiled down to four pitches that were really bad hanging splits," Schilling said. "I don't think I hung a pitch as badly in the Triple-A starts as I hung those four today."

Moreover, Schilling doesn't believe that the problem with the breaking pitches is related to his health issues.

"My split was incredibly inconsistent tonight," he said. "This is not something that has happened overnight. I haven't been consistent for a long time and there is more than one reason for that."

As for what the reasons are, Schilling is at a loss but feels it's a matter of making adjustments, rather than any arm problems.

"As long as the physical questions are answered and there is no reason to believe they're not," he said. "It's a matter of me making adjustments, and I've not consistently done that, and the numbers reflect that."

For Francona, it's just a matter of getting Schilling out there regularly, as he observed, "He didn't forget how to pitch."

Surprisingly, Schilling, a veteran of 16 years, admitted that he was nervous taking the mound.

"There was a ton of nervousness out there tonight," he said. "That's what keeps me going. The day that is gone, I'll quit."

And while the nervousness wasn't unexpected on his part, he also said that it led to him throwing with more physical aggression, which is something he'll have to look at when he reviews the game.

While Schilling was glad to be back, the physical questions hopefully put to rest, he wasn't happy with his overall performance.

"A good pitcher can't give up on his pitches," he said. "I tried to do that with my splitter and it cost us a game."

So at the end of the day, what the Red Sox have is the same Schilling they had before his injury -- a veteran who knows how to pitch and, when on his game, is one of the best there is, but who for some reason has been inconsistent.

"I'm not throwing at 95 [mph] anymore," said a philosophical Schilling, "but I didn't get beat on my fastball."

As for whether the problem is mechanics or approach, Schilling isn't sure, but he is sure that it's just a matter of making adjustments.

"There has to be some reason for it," Schilling said, "and I'm sure we'll figure it out."

Glenn Rabney is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.