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Schilling's appearance stirs Fenway

Schilling's appearance stirs Fenway

BOSTON -- If there were any doubt about how badly the Red Sox want to make this American League Championship Series competitive, the team didn't wait until the game's first pitch was thrown to show it.

Just before Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Red Sox took the field at Fenway Park for Game 5 of the ALCS against the Rays -- a best-of-seven series that Boston trails, 3-1 -- the big screen in center field showed images of a similar predicament the team endured just four seasons ago.

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The screen showed footage of the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees, including the Red Sox's ferocious comeback from a 3-0 series deficit that broke New York's eight-decade dominance over Boston. The Red Sox won four straight games, bounding into the World Series and winning their first title in 86 years.

Past heroes graced the screen -- giving the Fenway faithful fond memories of poise on the mound from Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling, as well as David Ortiz's presence at the plate -- and Babe Ruth's face shadowed the footage of the historic '04 comeback, which quashed the fabled "Curse of the Bambino."

Then, when it was time for the ceremonial first pitch, Fenway Park erupted when the guest of honor donned his Red Sox jersey for the first time in almost a full year. After a brief introduction, Schilling took the field.

The once-dominant right-hander, who was sidelined this season due to surgery on his right shoulder, casually walked to the mound and waved to the more-than-receptive crowd on hand.

It was Schilling -- a nearly unhittable postseason pitcher who has recorded an 11-2 record with a 2.23 ERA in 19 career playoff appearances spanning three teams -- who perhaps personifies the Red Sox's 2004 ALCS comeback more than anyone.

Schilling took the mound in Game 6 of the '04 ALCS with his team facing a 3-2 series deficit, and the right-hander pitched a masterful game with blood soaking his right sock due to a tendon injury in his ankle. Schilling endured, pitching seven innings of one-run ball.

Schilling is 216-146 with 3,116 strikeouts during the regular season in his 20-year career.

Would his presence at Fenway for Game 5 help spark another big win to keep the Sox alive?

Judging by the hand he received, the crowd didn't give up hope.

Mark Remme 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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