After a second straight great performance, I'm willing to declare Schilling back to his old self. The first great start in Texas could have been attributed to Opening Day adrenaline, plus nice warm weather that let him get loose fast. Last night was an entirely different story. The game was delayed by 90 minutes due to rain, and it stayed cold and damp the entire night. Schilling didn't seem to be affected at all, and was still popping fastballs at 96-MPH in his final inning. Just a commanding performance all the way around.
A healthy Schilling makes this rotation scary. With the way Beckett has looked all Spring, and how Clement looked until his final inning, when Francona inexplicably left him in a blow out too long, suddenly this team's got three power arms striking out hitters and shortening games for the bullpen. The back end of the pen, with Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Timlin and a seemingly recovering Keith Foulke, is fine. If the two other geriatrics in the rotation, Tim Wakefield and David Wells, can be just league average, the shallow bullpen becomes less and less of a glaring weakness. That, in turn, gives the Delcarmens and Hansens of the farm system time to develop, making them more likely to be contributors whenever they are finally called up.
A healthy Schilling makes all of that flow, and it's a beautiful sight to see.
Other Sox Notes:
- Papi, shut up. I know that the quality of umpiring has been poor ever since Sandy Alderson left the MLB front office, but there are a couple of things at play here. First, you're not special. Umpiring has been bad all around, not just for you and not just for the Red Sox. Quit playing the martyr. Second, you really, really crossed the line with that "hangover" comment. Let me get this straight. You're publicly demeaning the professionalism of the umpires by saying that a decent percentage of them get plastered the night before a ballgame, to a degree that it affects their performance, and you think this is somehow going to help the situation? Have you lost your mind? What kind of pitches do you think are going to be called against you now? More importantly, what kind of pitches do you think Red Sox pitchers are going to get? Your mouth is doing more damage than your bat at the moment, Papi, so shut it, and concentrate on your job.
- While I don't expect the team to maintain an .800 winning percentage for the year, it is fair to note that their current 29-23 run differential translates to a winning percentage of .604. That means 98 wins for the season and a guaranteed playoff spot. Small, small sample, but all systems appear to be go, at the moment.