Francona, Schilling, Lowell interview

Francona, Schilling, Lowell interview

First, how important was it to get Okajima working in this game even though you had a 9-0 lead? And, secondly, from your perspective, how do the Angels' bats look to you in this series or the way they were hitting?

TERRY FRANCONA: To back up your first question, we weren't treating this like -- structural like this was a game that we were setting out to win. We had Okajima lose those 2-0, and rather than scramble the bullpen and have guys throwing real quick, we put up seven in a pretty rapid fashion.

We weren't worried about work. We were just trying to win the game.

How do the Angels, the hitters look to you throughout this series?

TERRY FRANCONA: I thought our staff did a very good job. When you get -- again, talk about perspective all the time. It's 2-0 in the seventh. We've got our hands full. Schilling executed a great pitch to get out of that jam, or base hitting, we're 2-2, our ball in the gap and we're losing.

But our staff executed. Our starters, our relievers I thought from Beckett all the way through to the end, they did a very good job.

Can you talk about Curt's performance today?

TERRY FRANCONA: I thought Schilling was outstanding. I thought from the beginning he commanded, especially command of his fastball, both sides of the plate, in and out, up and down, changing speeds. He really pitched.

He didn't have the gun going, but I think the hitters will let you know if you're throwing hard enough or not. I thought he really pitched well. When he got himself backed into a corner he executed his pitches.

Now that he's not throwing mid-90s, does he have less of a margin of error? It didn't seem to effect him at all today. I think he threw 50 more strikes than he did balls?

TERRY FRANCONA: You know what, when you throw strikes with all your pitches and stay out of the middle of the plate, that's a real good formula for success. You're right, though, he used to be able to reach back and sometimes hit 97, 98. When you're throwing less than that, your margin for error is less. But he didn't forget how to pitch. He didn't forget how to compete and he didn't forget how to locate. Pretty impressive game.

In this generation, at least in recent memory and certainly in the century, where do you think David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez as far as a playoff 1-2 punch rank?

TERRY FRANCONA: I'm not good at that. I think I know where I rank in doing that and it's probably last. (Laughter). I know we're thrilled that we run them out there because they're dangerous. You saw today we had second and third. Didn't score. Come back, nobody on. All of a sudden we got those two runs back. David and Manny back-to-back take beautiful swings. And it gives us the cushion and Schilling made it hold up.

We've been saying it, it's been happening since before I was here. But since I've been here, running through the middle of that order, you got a chance to get nicked up all the time. Even when you don't you have to work. If you walk one or do something, the other guy can get you, makes everybody in front of him and behind him better.

Can you talk about your schedule for the next few days and do you have a preference between the Yankees and the Indians?

TERRY FRANCONA: No, I guess my preference would be that they play for about another eight days and go 20 innings every game.

But we'll go back tonight a little bit later tonight. We'll take tomorrow off and we'll get right back to working out the next day and get ready to play baseball.

Just the fact when the ALC begins you will have played three games in 12 days. As a manager, does that concern you and how do you deal with it?

TERRY FRANCONA: I don't think there's anything that doesn't concern us. That's part of our job is to be concerned. But to be prepared where it doesn't get in the way. And we'll map out this week as we feel it best suits us. There's a time to do that. It wasn't before we played today's game. But we will certainly get our guys ready to play.

However, we have some time to -- we have a long flight to think about it and prepare what our schedule for this week and we'll do that. We'll get guys throwing. We'll get guys hitting and we'll stay ready.

Just quickly, the ball that Manny hit, have you seen a ball hit harder or farther than that home run center all year?

TERRY FRANCONA: I'm not good at that. I don't care. Just as long as it goes out, that's kind of what we're really hoping. We want to score runs and be better than the team we're playing. I'm not sure that I really put a lot of

significance in where it ends up, as long as it gets over that fence or as long as we score a run.

That last strikeout, could you have thought at the time that within 10 minutes that wouldn't be as important as when you got it, if that makes sense?

CURT SCHILLING: It didn't. I think if you saw the way I reacted to it, you know how important I thought it was. 2-0 game at that point. And there was a couple of points in this game where I felt like the game was on the line, and that was absolutely one of them. And we had a couple of momentum swings today that really worked out in our favor. And obviously that was one of them.

Talk about the Guerrero at-bat in the third inning, is that the unintentional intentional?

CURT SCHILLING: Yeah, fell behind early. And I'm not really sure I ever remember doing that intentionally. Unintentionally intentionally walking someone to that extreme. But I just didn't feel comfortable with the matchup. And given the score and the situation, and knowing that Garret was not hitting in the next hole, we decided to take a little different approach. And then the Willits at-bat. I made one mistake, and like a lot of the mistakes I made earlier in the game, he fouled it off, and Jason made a phenomenally -- a great call, and we executed and got out of it.

Talk about your performance today and also you think you rise when the game really means something, can you talk about pitching these types of games?

CURT SCHILLING: Well, that performance today was as much about John Farrell and Jason Varitek as it was about anything, as far as I'm concerned and as far as my results. It's been an incredibly arduous and long road and a process that's had its peaks and valleys, but John has stuck with me and worked as hard as I've ever had a pitching coach work to get me to where I need to be.

And Jason was flawless today. That was as well a game called -- game playing calling as I've ever had. And after the second and third inning, like I said I thought early in the game I made a lot of mistakes command-wise. And fortunately they took or they fouled off and then I thought we really got sharper as the game went on. He didn't miss a beat. He just called a tremendous game. And Manny and David hit the home run. There was a bunch of momentum swings and as is the case in October, I don't really think it's game to game as much as it is hitter to hitter.

Manny and David combined to reach base 19 times in this series, four home runs. How would you pitch to these guys?

CURT SCHILLING: Mike put it great yesterday. You pick your poison. Manny is seeing the ball well. And I talked to Manny multiple times this year. And he was very adamant he never felt good. He never felt right. He never felt like he was in the groove. He never was comfortable with his swing. But he probably worked and spent more time than anybody on the team. I would be surprised if he wasn't in a little better place now. Swing is aggressive. He looks very confident at the plate. Again, pick your poison. There is no one way to get either one of those guys out. When they're both on, there's -- I don't know if there is a way to get both of them out.

Is it any more satisfying to have a performance like this, say, compared to a few years ago when now you're not able to hit quite as high on the radar gun anymore?

CURT SCHILLING: I don't know, in some ways maybe. But this is really -- yes and no. We're trying to win the games. Whatever I can do in the mix it makes you feel good to contribute. How you do it is not really relevant anymore for me.

As a younger pitcher, would you have been able to give Vladimir that unintentional intentional walk, would you have been able to recognize that situation?

CURT SCHILLING: I don't know. As a younger pitcher I had seven or eight more miles an hour. So stuff-wise it was a very different thought process. But part of doing what I'm doing now is recognition of what I have, the situation and what we've done prior to that and what we want to do later.

And that was all those things factored into that.

That ALDS logo between home plate and first base is right around the spot where you aggravated the injury back in '04. Do you even consider that? Is that on the radar screen when you're out on there at all?

CURT SCHILLING: No. Not at all. I think we scored seven runs in an inning the last time I pitched here in Game 1. I remember saying something about that. I don't look back at that. We won the World Series that year. So it all ended up good.

When you talk about what John Farrell did for you, is that working on the mental approach or the physical approach? And also talk about your command both sides of the plate tonight, particularly after the second and third inning, if pitchers can be in a zone, you certainly were.

CURT SCHILLING: It's both of them as far as John is concerned. He's the complete package. He understands, and I've said this time and time again, he understands that every one of us is such a different animal when it comes to coaching, talking and teaching, he knows exactly what I need to do, and he knows what to say and how to say it. He's helped carve the new niche that I'm in as a pitcher mentally and physically.

What do you mean when you say he knows what you need? What do you need?

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CURT SCHILLING: Depends on the day and the outing and he understands how detailed-oriented I am about pitching. There isn't a detail that's too small or too unimportant for me, from what do you want to throw with two strikes after second-time-out lineup to how do you want to start these guys a third time. He thinks like I think. He does that with everybody. That's a huge plus. And you can't overstate the importance that that -- from a confidence factor that has. It's one of those coaches you enjoy when you come out of a game he's excited about what you did, makes you feel good.

Could you talk about some of the swings and keys?

MIKE LOWELL: Our main key was pitching. I knew we would have to pitch well in order to be successful during the series. Because that's a lineup where when they get on base, especially with their team speed, they can create a lot of things. I think our main focus was trying to get those guys off the base path so they don't -- we can kind of take them out of their game plan from not hitting and running and taking the extra bag. So we definitely have to tip our caps to Josh and Schilling especially, but I think our whole staff did a great job.

Manny and David combined four home runs in this series. They go back to back today. How much do those guys kind of playoff each other? Anything you can do I can do, too?

MIKE LOWELL: I don't know how much they play off each other. But they're both very special players. And I think in big games like this you need your big guys to come through. And they do it time and time again. Big moments. Early in the game. I think those two basically set the tone all three games of the series with their bats. And that's why they're superstars. That's why they hit third and fourth and we lean on them. We're going to need them if we want to go all the way. They just seem to do it time and time again. And it's almost pick your poison like we saw in Game 2. You can't pitch around one and pitch to the other because they're both very dangerous.

In this series, you guys kind of showed them a little bit of everything. The pitching, they only scored in a couple of innings out of the 27. You had big-time home runs that were timely and also early in the game, and you had that one big long inning where you sent 10 guys or so to the plate. Can you envision this team playing better than it has in this series?

MIKE LOWELL: Not for the end result, you know? But I think it speaks of our balance. I think in spring training a lot of people talk about everyone knows about David and Manny. Can our pitchers do their job and can the guys surrounding David and Manny do their job? I think that's very key to our success, because if we can get Pedroia and Youkilis and those guys set the table for those guys, we put those pitchers in a position where they have to throw to David and Manny.

I think with myself, J.D., Tek down the line, we have to put it together because we don't want David and Manny getting four easy ones and pitching to someone else. I think the fact we can put together professional at-bats one after another speaks a lot of what our team is capable of doing. The main key is pitching. We need to pitch to keep playing well and keep advancing.

Would the layoff help or hurt the Red Sox in the next series?

MIKE LOWELL: It's okay because we know ahead of time what we're getting into. We saw the schedule ahead of time. I don't think we wanted this series to go five games just to have less days off. We'll take it as it comes, have our workouts and try to stay sharp and get ready for Game 1.

Just kind of follow up on that last question. Since March you've been going just about every day, day off here, day off there. Now you've got the time off. Does that make a difference? Does that change the approach? Would you rather play after one day off and go right back at it?

MIKE LOWELL: I think any team would rather not have five days off. But if that's the way it goes, you gotta go with it. I remember in '03 we were in the playoffs, it was kind of one day off, start again. So you can kind of keep that same rhythm, but I think both sides have to have the same view. I'd rather win three than go four and five. So we'll take it. And I don't think there should be any let-down. If you have a let-down because you have too many days off, you have a problem.

We're in the playoffs, and this is where we want to be. And our intensity has to be at a high level and we need to execute in order to win some ball games.

Any preference between the Tribe the Bronx Bombers?

MIKE LOWELL: Don't call them by their nicknames, please (smiling). Not really. I think we've played the Yankees so many times, they're more familiar to us. But they're kind of two different teams. I think when you look at the Yankees everyone talks about their lineup, one through nine, and how dangerous they can be. But I think you get lost in the fact that Wang, Pettitte and Clemens are pretty good pitchers. It's not like they're not giving good pitching performance. They're solid. With Cleveland you see Carmona and Sabathia, two guys that can shut down the lineup. My preference is they play five games, try to use their guys up, so we can be more rested than them. But either team is going to be a challenge for us and it's going to be a tough series, and hopefully we can be ready for it.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.