Whether Curt Schilling is worthy of election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame is debatable _ with 216 regular-season wins in 20 years, an average of 11 per season, he appears to be, at best, a marginal candidate _ but what’s certain is he was an effective big-game pitcher, especially against the Cardinals.
The most fabled of his matchups with St. Louis is Game 2 of the 2004 World Series. Schilling, pitching with a dislocated right ankle tendon held together by stitches, bled through his sock while holding the Cardinals to an unearned run and four hits in six gritty innings of a 6-2 Red Sox victory. Boxscore
As impressive, but perhaps less well-remembered, are the two complete-game wins Schilling pitched for the Diamondbacks against the Cardinals in the 2001 National League Division Series. If Schilling earns votes in his first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot for 2013, his dominance of the Cardinals in that series should be a factor.
In 18 innings in that series, Schilling limited St. Louis to two runs and struck out 18. He won the opener and the clincher, outdueling Matt Morris in both.
Morris, who, like Schilling, had 22 regular-season wins in 2001, yielded two runs in 15 innings in the Division Series. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Morris pitched “great,” wrote St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz, “but Schilling was even greater.”
In Game 1 of the series, a 1-0 Diamondbacks victory at Phoenix, Edgar Renteria (single and double) and Jim Edmonds (double) got the only hits against Schilling. Albert Pujols and Mark McGwire were a combined 0-for-7. Boxscore
“(Schilling) only threw 101 pitches,” Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny said to St. Louis writer Rick Hummel. “We were wanting to make him work a little harder than that.”
Wrote Miklasz: In a battle of nerves, Schilling made the Cardinals stand down … in your basic postseason masterpiece.
Schilling had pitched several gems during the regular season, but the Game 1 performance against the Cardinals, said Diamondbacks catcher Damian Miller, “was better than all of them.”
The Cardinals won two of the next three games. With the best-of-five series squared at two wins apiece, Schilling and Morris were paired in a rematch in the deciding game at Phoenix on Oct. 14, 2001.
Through seven innings, the Diamondbacks led, 1-0, on a home run by Reggie Sanders. In the eighth, J.D. Drew tied the score with a two-out homer off Schilling. (In 1997, Schilling, then with the Phillies, had called Drew a punk because Drew refused to sign with Philadelphia after being selected in the first round of the amateur draft.)
The Diamondbacks threatened in the bottom of the eighth, putting two on with two out, before Morris struck out Mark Grace.
Inspired, Jim Edmonds singled, leading off the ninth. Then La Russa made one of the most controversial moves of his career, pinch-hitting Kerry Robinson for the slumping McGwire (who would never have another at-bat in the big leagues). Robinson bunted Edmonds into scoring position at second, but Schilling, still throwing 98 mph, struck out Renteria and Matheny (who had two hits in the game).
Arizona won, 2-1, on a two-out RBI-single by Tony Womack off Steve Kline in the bottom of the ninth. Schilling limited the Cardinals to six hits, striking out nine for the second time. Again, Pujols and McGwire were a combined 0-for-7. Boxscore
“To be sitting on the bench and watching Curt Schilling and Matt Morris, that isn’t major league, it’s a league above this one,” La Russa said to the Post-Dispatch. “I’m not a betting man, but 15 innings, two runs (for Morris), you would have thought he would have won both.”
In a descriptive summary, Schilling told the Associated Press, “It’s a hair-pulling, nail-biting, teeth-grinding experience … It was fitting that it would go down to the fifth game and the ninth inning.”
Schilling had some regular-season success against St. Louis _ a three-hit shutout on Aug. 10, 1997, and a 13-strikeout performance in eight innings on April 26, 1998 _ but the Cardinals often prevailed against him. In 22 regular-season appearances versus the Cardinals, Schilling had a 5-9 record and a 4.58 ERA.