King Kaufman's Sports Daily

World Series: The Sock of the Red Death. Curt Schilling and his painful, bloody ankle put the Cardinals in mortal danger.

By Salon Staff
Published October 25, 2004 7:00PM (EDT)

Curt Schilling's bloody right sock is going to end up in a Hall of Fame exhibit someday with Kirk Gibson's heating pad, Dizzy Dean's head X-ray and the Kissing Bandit's bra.

For the second straight time, Schilling pitched his team to victory on a jury-rigged ankle Sunday night, limiting the Cardinals to an unearned run in six innings five days after he'd done a similar number on the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. The Red Sox won the game 6-2, giving them a 2-0 lead as the World Series shifts to St. Louis after an off day Monday.

The Red Sox won Game 1 Saturday 11-9, losing leads of 7-2 and 9-7 before finally subduing the Cardinals in the kind of game this World Series figures to provide about a half dozen of.

The enduring image from Game 2, as it was in Game 6 of the ALCS, was blood seeping through Schilling's sock from the sutures keeping a bum tendon stable. Unless the Series goes to Game 6 and Schilling pitches well again, the slow-motion film clip our great-grandchildren will see in their dotage will be Schilling limping gingerly back to the dugout after getting out of a jam created by two errors in the sixth inning, his last.

Sox team physician Dr. Bill Morgan said it's unlikely that Schilling would make another start. The minor but radical surgery caused Schilling much more pain this time than it did last week -- Schilling said when he woke up Sunday he "couldn't move" and didn't think there was any chance he'd be able to pitch -- and Morgan said sewing together a pitcher from scratch a third time might not be feasible.

"The line may be drawn there, depending on how he looks over the next five days," Morgan said.

Of course, it's looked before like Schilling was finished for the season, like after his disastrous Game 1 start against the Yankees. Since then, he's 2-0 with an ERA of 0.69. Such health problems we should all have.

Boston's players refer to themselves as "the Idiots" but they'd have to be damn fools to let themselves get overconfident with a 2-0 lead. Who knows better than they that a good team can get off the deck in a series? Down by two? Shoot, the Red Sox spotted the Yankees the first three games in the ALCS, as you may have heard, and came back to win it. The Cardinals rallied from 3-2 down in the NLCS to beat the Astros.

And while I think it's silly the way the media treats the past of a franchise as though it had anything to do with today's players, as though anyone on the Boston roster had anything to do with the Sox losing the 1986 World Series, never mind 1975, '67 or '46, those players would have to have been living in caves not to have heard around town that the last time guys wearing the same pajamas were in the World Series, they beat a dominant N.L. team in the the first two games -- on the road! -- and then lost in seven.

Still, knowing that anything can happen in a short series and that's why they play 'em and it ain't over till it's over and all that, the Red Sox have to be feeling pretty good about things.

They have Pedro Martinez going in Game 3, and while Martinez has seemed pretty hittable over the last month, that's because he's mostly been pitching against the Yankees, who own him. Against New York, playoffs included, he's 1-3 with a 5.72 ERA. Against everybody who's not New York, he's 14-7 with a 3.67. Pretty tough. The Cardinals will send Jeff Suppan, who pitched six strong innings in the pennant clincher against Houston in his last start.

The Red Sox have also gotten away with making four errors in each of the first two games, a staggering total. Even with designated hitter David Ortiz forced to don his untrustworthy first baseman's mitt for games in the National League stadium, if the law of averages means anything the Red Sox over the next few days should be the new, improved, super-slick fielding edition.

The Cardinals have reasons not to despair. They were by far the best home team in the National League, going 53-28 at Busch Stadium, where the next three games (if the Cards earn a Game 5) will be played. That's almost as good a home-field advantage as quirky Fenway gives the Sox, who went 55-26 in Boston. But while the Cardinals went 52-29 on the road, the best mark in the majors, the Red Sox were only pretty good away from home, going 43-38, tied for third in the A.L. The Cardinals are also 6-0 at home in the playoffs.

And they can take comfort that their four big sluggers, Larry Walker, Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds, didn't do much damage in Games 1 and 2, and they don't figure to be kept down for long, with the possible exception of Rolen, who's hurting. Walker had a big Game 1 and Pujols had a pair of doubles in Game 2, but otherwise, nothing.

But the Cardinals aren't idiots either. They know they're in trouble, and that awe-inspiring comeback in the ALCS notwithstanding, they know Game 3 is a must-win. They've had two must-win games all year, Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS against the Astros, and they've won them both. But the Astros, hot as they were, were no Red Sox.

Jerry Seinfeld's oft-repeated line that sports fandom comes down to rooting for laundry has never been more true than in this series, where Curt Schilling's bloody sock has come to symbolize the grit and determination of a team that by happy coincidence is called the Red Sox. If Boston plays another couple of games like the last two -- or maybe more importantly if the Cardinals do -- Schilling's sock will never see a washing machine again, only the inside of a display case in Cooperstown.

Previous column: World Series preview

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