Former Philadelphia hurler thriving with Arizona Diamondbacks

Schilling still big-game pitcher

Posted: Friday, August 04, 2000

PHOENIX -- Curt Schilling has wasted no time in reminding everyone he is one of baseball best big-game pitchers. It's just that he hasn't had many big games for the last seven years or so.

In two starts since he was traded from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Schilling has allowed one run in 17 innings.

In his home debut for Arizona, a stirring duel with Greg Maddux Wednesday night, Schilling shut out Atlanta for the second time this season, a 2-0 victory that lifted the sputtering Diamondbacks back into a virtual tie with San Francisco for the NL West lead.

After years of losing in Philadelphia, Schilling had the kind of performance that brought back memories of the shutout he threw against Toronto in Game 5 of the 1993 World Series.

''I'm not going to belittle the situation I was in (in Philadelphia),'' Schilling said. ''It's just not even comparable. Knowing tonight if we could go out and find a way to win we'd be back in first, I love that stuff. That's fun. This is all fun.''

Schilling has five complete games this season. After a slow start following off-season shoulder surgery, he's coming on strong. In his last 10 starts, he's 7-2 with a 1.69 ERA.

The stage Schilling chose for his 15th career shutout was a dramatic one. It was a triumphant return to the city where he grew up, to a ballpark where one of his old friends sells beer.

And it came against the mighty Braves and Maddux, a four-time Cy Young winner.

''If you don't enjoy this and you don't want to come to the park and you don't want to be called on to win a game for your team in this situation, then you're in the wrong profession,'' Schilling said.

Schilling and Randy Johnson probably give Arizona the best 1-2 pitching punch in baseball, and maybe it will be enough to offset the Diamondbacks' season-long offensive struggles and recent bullpen woes.

But Todd Stottlemyre, out with an elbow injury and anxious to get back in the rotation, hopefully by September, said the rest of the team needs to come through.

''It's pretty awesome,'' Stottlemyre said. ''What it really tells you is the commitment that (owner Jerry) Colangelo has made to this ballclub, to this city and to this state. What he's telling the guys in here is he's doing everything he can to win, and we have to do our part.''

Schilling historically is a strikeout pitcher. In the three years before Johnson had his first full NL season in 1999, Schilling led the league in strikeouts.

But he won a different way on Wednesday. He had just four strikeouts and one walk as the Braves consistently hit the ball on the ground, twice into double plays that ended scoring threats. Another threat ended when right fielder Jason Conti threw out Brian Jordan trying to move from first to third on B.J. Surhoff's single.

''He threw better against us the first two times (this season),'' Maddux said. ''He threw good tonight, no question. But I don't think that was his 'A' game. That tells you how good he is.''

Schilling is 3-0 against Atlanta this season, and he's beaten Maddux the last four times the two have started against each other. It is a fact that the ever-superstitious Schilling chooses not to dwell on.

''There are baseball gods, I believe, and we don't say things like that,'' Schilling said. ''I've beaten him four times in a row and he's got four Cy Young awards. That's the count that really matters.''

Walk-up ticket sales exceeded 6,000 for the game, swelling the crowd to 40,643. They were on their feet cheering at the end, as Schilling retired the final 13 batters. He threw his best fastball, at 95 mph, in the ninth.

''I don't think he felt real sharp early on, but once he got to the fourth or fifth inning, he really seemed to hit his pace,'' Arizona manager Buck Showalter said.

Many of the Diamondbacks knew exactly what the Braves were up against.

''Believe me, I've faced him a lot of times,'' shortstop Tony Womack said. ''I'm just glad he's on my side. It's no fun hitting against him.''

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