Schilling faces tall task in Game 2

Schilling faces tall task in Game 2

BOSTON -- Curt Schilling knows he has a daunting task ahead. Rarely has the Red Sox starter taken the mound in October with the odds working against him, but Schilling believes things might be different come Saturday night.

Schilling is down to take the ball for Boston in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series at 8 p.m. ET on FOX at Fenway Park, where history has been kind to the veteran right-hander. This time around, Schilling will be asked to keep pace with the Indians' Fausto Carmona, who emerged as one of the top arms in the league this season.

At stake? The opportunity to give the Red Sox a nearly insurmountable lead in the ALCS. Since the beginning of the Wild Card era in 1995, 10 teams have gone up 2-0 in LCS play, and only the 2004 Yankees, who coughed up a 3-0 lead to the Red Sox, have not gone on to win the series. By contrast, teams that have come back to win Game 2 to even the series have gone on to win the LCS nine of 14 times.

"I know enough to know I'd rather be facing somebody else," Schilling said on Friday. "It's been a long time since I've gone into a game being an underdog, but given the year he had and the way he's throwing, I can absolutely see why people think we're going to have a hard time winning that game."

After capturing a 10-3 victory over the Indians in Game 1 on Friday night, though, there's no one else that the Red Sox would rather send to the mound. Schilling has a history of success in the postseason, so Carmona or not, the Sox are more than happy to take their chances with their experienced right-hander.

"It's huge if Schill goes out there and throws the way he does and we can get to Carmona," Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis said. "Our big thing is we want to get to Carmona early and get his pitch count up and try to do as much as we can to get him out of the game quick. If we can do that, we'll be successful."

If anything, the long layoff between starts has provided ample time for Schilling to formulate a detailed plan of attack for facing Cleveland. He hasn't pitched since Sunday in Anaheim, where Schilling spun seven shutout innings in a clinching victory over the Angels in Game 3 of the AL Division Series.

In the five days since that outing, Schilling has studied Cleveland's lineup batter by batter, creating an individualized game plan for each hitter. The 40-year-old starter said that the scouting reports he utilizes now are more beneficial than they were when he was younger, when Schilling relied more on a power approach on the mound.

"The scouting report is more focused, or more appropriate for me now, than it was years ago," he said. "Because I think my stuff is much more conventional than it was before, and I think that's how some of these reports are put together, with our staff in mind. So I get more out of them now than I did in the past, and I think that's somewhat of an advantage.

"We just have taken a much different approach to starting a game, tempo-wise, and my stuff. [I'm] not being as adamant about establishing my fastball as I am about establishing the change of speeds I need to use to get lineups out on a consistent basis."

Boston manager Terry Francona said the way Schilling -- 9-8 with a 3.87 ERA in 24 regular season starts -- has evolved as a pitcher has been key for the right-hander's success. Gone are the days when Schilling could reel back and overpower hitters with a 97-mph heater. Now, he has added a valuable changeup to his repertoire and relies on having command of his split-finger fastball.

"What's been more important is probably him being more comfortable in his skin," Francona said. "He had to kind of come to grips with, 'OK, here's how I'm going to pitch, and I'm either going to be good or not good.' I think he's found ways to be good.

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"He's never lost the ability to compete or be able to follow a game plan. He does that as well as anybody."

That aspect will be important against the Indians, who saw Carmona quiet the Yankees' bats for nine stellar innings in an 11-inning victory for the Tribe in Game 2 of the ALDS. In his career against Cleveland, Schilling is 2-2 with a 3.79 ERA in seven appearances, including a victory over the Indians on May 28 in Boston.

In that start, Schilling surrendered just one run on seven innings at Fenway Park, where he's 14-4 in his last 28 regular-season starts. Still, Schilling understands that this latest version of the Indians is different than the group he took on five months ago. The lineup has new additions and one of the more noticeable changes is the emergence of Carmona, who finished the season 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA.

"Back when we first played them," Schilling said, "people were like, 'Wow, I wonder if this kid is going to be for real.' Now, here we are 19 wins later, and he is."

Unlike Carmona, though, Schilling can also rely on his extensive postseason experience. Over 16 playoff starts, he is 9-2 with a 1.93 ERA, and his .818 winning percentage is the highest in postseason history among pitchers with at least 10 decisions. Schilling's ERA is the third-lowest in history among pitchers with at least 100 playoff innings.

"He's a tough pitcher," said Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore, who went hitless on Friday. "He's been in the playoffs before and is a big-game pitcher. It's another tough challenge."

On Saturday, Schilling will be making his first ALCS appearance since Game 6 against the Yankees in 2004, when he picked up a win and helped send the Red Sox on their way to the club's first World Series title since 1918. Schilling also shared the Most Valuable Player honors with Randy Johnson after aiding Arizona to the '01 title.

"He's a big-game guy," Boston's Bobby Kielty said. "He's been big in the playoffs his whole career. I think with him being out there, we have a great chance. He's one of the best big-game pitchers in the game right now."

Still, all that will mean nothing if he's unable to outduel Carmona.

"Like I said, I'd rather be facing somebody else," Schilling said. "But what it comes down to, to me, in October, is you've got to outpitch the other team."

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