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Chess Match: Sweeping success

Chess Match: Sweeping success

ANAHEIM -- The biggest move of Game 3 -- the only one that ultimately mattered -- was the Red Sox nudging the Angels into the offseason. But there were other subtle aspects before, during, and even following Boston's 9-1 Division Series-clinching triumph.

On-hold Schilling hangs up on Angels
The situation: In setting up his Division Series rotation, Boston manager Terry Francona has his choice of well-rested starters, and can base his decision on a variety of factors.


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The decision: Francona decides to go with situation over seniority, slotting Daisuke Matsuzaka into the second slot for Fenway Park and holding Curt Schilling back until hitting the road for Game 3 -- which the 40-year-old right-hander thus would pitch on 12 days' rest.

The outcome: A creature of routine also given to overthinking perceived slights, Schilling works himself into a lather for this start, and channels the built-up energy into seven brilliant innings, blanking the Angels on six hits. Added to the work of Josh Beckett and Dice-K, Boston's rotation winds up allowing three runs in 20 2/3 innings.

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The analysis: "Schilling was outstanding. From the beginning, his command of the fastball was there ... both sides of the plate, up and down. Changing speeds ... Ten years ago, I would have had some concerns [about pitching him on such long rest], but now he is a different pitcher. I think he's gotten to a point where he's comfortable." -- Francona

Where there's a Willits, there's a way out
The situation: The Angels threaten to break through in a scoreless game, a pair of singles placing runners at the corners with two outs in the third inning, bringing Vladimir Guerrero to bat in a clutch situation.


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The decision: Schilling transparently pitches around Guerrero, walking him on four straight pitches -- exceeding the total of three balls he had thrown to the first 12 batters he'd faced -- to load the bases. Schilling prefers to face rookie Reggie Willits, who had entered the game in the top of the inning to replace Garret Anderson, finally shelved by the conjunctivitis that has plagued him since Wednesday.

The outcome: On a 1-2 breaking pitch, Willits fouled out meekly to catcher Jason Varitek, ending the Angels' first and last threat against Schilling.

The analysis: "That was one of the two times I felt the game was on the line. I don't know if I've ever gone the intentional-unintentional walk route to that extent in my career. I just didn't feel comfortable with the matchup. Knowing Garret wasn't the next hitter, I decided to take a different approach." -- Schilling

Take a day off ... or five
The situation: As the team with the best record in the American League, the Red Sox have their choice of Division Series formats.


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The decision: The Boston organization picks the "extended" series, which called for off-days between each of the first three games.

The outcome: By making quick work of the Angels, the Red Sox invited for themselves the mixed blessing of a sporadic schedule. When the AL Championship Series opens on Friday, they will have played three games in 12 days. Off-days can help heal their injured, of which the Red Sox have none, but can also dull their edge, which is sharp.

The analysis: "We knew what were getting into in advance. That doesn't mean we would have preferred this series to go five games just so we would have less days off. I think anyone would rather not have five days off, but we'll just go with it. If you're going to let down because you've got too many days off, you've got a problem." -- Mike Lowell

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

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