BASEBALL / ROSS NEWHAN : Schilling Brought Heat to Ice Braves

He was the living, breathing, reincarnation of the poster that hangs in the back of his locker.

It is a poster of the late Don Drysdale during his heyday as a Dodger workhorse and warhorse, a scowl on his face, his sidewheeling right arm ready to strike with the fury of a snake.

"That poster and Johnny Podres' words," Curt Schilling said of the Philadelphia Phillies' pitching coach, "say everything there is to say about pitching.

"Nasty, aggressive, dominant, but in control."

Schilling was all of that in Game 1 of the National League playoffs Wednesday night.

He struck out the first five Atlanta Brave batters, a playoff record.

He struck out 10 in all.

He limited a team that had averaged 5.8 runs over its last 68 games to seven hits and two runs while delivering 136 pitches in eight innings.

He led, 3-2, and argued with Manager Jim Fregosi to stay in at that point, but Fregosi had his way. So did the Phillies, eventually beating the Braves, 4-3, in 10 innings.

Schilling didn't get the victory. The wildness of the Wild Thing, Mitch Williams, and a throwing error by Kim Batiste, who would drive in the winning run, deprived him of that, but the W in the team column was all that mattered.

"I couldn't be happier," Schilling said. "That was great. That was fun. That was everything I had ever dreamed it would be."

It would certainly have pleased another aggressive right-hander named Drysdale, who sat and talked with the 27-year-old Schilling for more than 30 minutes during an early-season visit of the Dodgers to Philadelphia.

"We talked about different aspects of pitching," Schilling said. "He had always been something of an idol to me, and I was flattered he would take that much time.

"It was a sad day for all of us when he died because we know how close he was to Johnny and we knew how important he was to Johnny."

Schilling decided then to dedicate his season to Drysdale, and it was as if that poster was in the camera of the mind as he mowed down the Braves, throwing harder, catcher Darren Daulton said, than at any time during the two seasons in which he was 30-18 with the Phillies, 16-7 this season, when he struck out 186 in 235 innings.

"I was pumped, juiced," said Schilling, who raises Rottweilers, is a World War II historian and recently bought Jose Canseco's red Lamborghini, all of which tells you he is a man who can get pumped and juiced.

"I knew my velocity wouldn't be a problem, that it would only be a matter of location.

"The way the crowd (of 62,012) got into it, I have to credit it for a couple of those early strikeouts. I thought there were two outs in the ninth already the way the fans reacted."

He struck out Otis Nixon, Jeff Blauser, Ron Gant, Fred McGriff and David Justice before Terry Pendleton grounded meekly to short.

At that point, Schilling said, he told himself to tone it down and complement the fastball with his off-speed and breaking pitches.

"He was pumped so high I was worried about burnout," Fregosi said.

He didn't need to be. Schilling, who found his niche as a starter during the Phillies' mass injury wave of last year after the Baltimore Orioles and Houston Astros had basically categorized him as a relief pitcher, gave up solo runs in the third and fourth innings before giving up only four more hits through the eighth.

"When I pitch, I feel the game, the whole game, should be mine," he said. "I couldn't have argued harder to stay out of the electric chair than I did to stay in the game. I gave Jim every excuse I could think of, but when you have an Italian manager, a no means no. He went the way he has all year."

Said Fregosi: "He wanted to finish and I don't blame him. He's a hell of a competitor. I want pitchers who want to finish, but he had thrown almost 140 pitches already and I couldn't put him out there again. I just didn't think it was the best thing for him."

Schilling will be back to pitch in Game 5, if there is one. He had been 0-2 and hit hard in four starts against Atlanta this year but estimated he reviewed the films of those performances at least 20 times.

"I could retire and become a scout, I know their hitters that well now," he said, "and that helped."

How strange. In the middle of a year he started 8-1 and finished 8-1, he went into an 0-5 funk and was chastised for pitching timidly by Daulton.

There was no timidity on a night he set a strikeout record that he said he will sit and think about at some later date.

He was the poster in his locker, a pitcher his late father would have admired as well. Curt Schilling leaves a ticket for Cliff Schilling every time he pitches, and did again Wednesday night. "I wouldn't have made it if it wasn't for him," Schilling said, a composite of many things and many people.

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