BOSTON — Fausto Carmona has a lot on his plate tonight.
If he wins, the Indians will host the first game of the World Series at Jacobs Field. If he loses, they will be forced to play Game 7 of the American League Championship Series in enemy territory.
That’s a lot to ask of a 23-year-old right-hander in his first full season as a member of a big league rotation. But that will be the reality for Carmona when the Indians and Red Sox meet at Fenway Park for Game 6, with Cleveland owning a 3-2 series lead and another chance to eliminate Boston.
If ace C.C. Sabathia couldn’t accomplish as much in Game 5 at Jacobs Field, why should Carmona be any different at Fenway?
“I’ve got a lot of faith in myself and the club that we’re going to play a nice game,” said Carmona through an interpreter. “I’m not going to be intimidated by anything.”
Not that there won’t be plenty of reasons to feel that way.
For starters, Carmona is making just his third career playoff start. It’ll come in front of a hostile crowd known for rattling opponents. He’ll be pitching against a decorated postseason performer in Curt Schilling. And he’ll be facing one of the most potent lineups in baseball.
Oh, and he can also send his team on its first World Series trip since 1997.
“The last thing I want him to do is think about the seventh, eighth or ninth inning,” said manager Eric Wedge, who has yet to receive a positive performance in three ALCS starts from his top two starting pitchers. “I just want him to take it pitch by pitch, go out there and compete, trust his stuff and give us a chance to win the ballgame.”
As his 19-8 record and 3.06 ERA attest, he did as much plenty of times during the regular season. But after producing a brilliant outing in his first career playoff start against the Yankees in the ALDS, Carmona wasn’t himself against Boston in Game 2.
Mirroring Sabathia with a surprising lack of control, Carmona lasted just four innings (second-shortest outing of the year), allowing four runs on four hits and five walks in Cleveland’s 13-6, 11-inning victory. He was saved from defeat by a brief start from Schilling and a late explosion from the Indians offense.
“Whatever happened last time, I’ve forgotten about it,” Carmona said. “It’s going to be a new start, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Carmona’s counterpart is the same, but Schilling enters in a different situation. He has more postseason purpose than usual, as Boston sits on the brink of elimination.
“It’s very simple now,” said Schilling, who owns the highest winning percentage (.818) of any postseason pitcher with a 9-2 record and 2.23 ERA in 17 playoff starts. “I go out and do my job (tonight) and we win, or I don’t and we lose. I don’t think that’s too much pressure or too little. It’s just reality.”
And though you wouldn’t expect it from a postseason warrior of his magnitude, Schilling will bring nerves to the mound.
“There’s always fear,” said Schilling, who allowed five runs in 4 2/3 innings of his Game 2 start. “I’m scared to death to go out and fail (tonight). I’m terrified of letting my teammates down and the fan base and this organization down, because they’re counting on me to survive, and get past another day.
“But I’m also very cognizant of the fact that fear is always something that has driven me and always pushed me.”
Outside of ace Josh Beckett, Boston manager Terry Francona wouldn’t want anyone else to have the ball with his team needing to save its season.
“Knowing your guy is not going to walk people, he’s not going to balk, he’ll field his position, that is comforting,” Francona said. “He’s a pro in every sense of the word, when it comes to competing and things like that, and at this time of year that is comforting.”
Rallying from the brink of postseason elimination is old hat for the Red Sox. Teams have faced 3-1 ALCS deficits 13 times, with just three of them going on to win the series. Boston did it twice, in 1986 against the Angels and in 2004 against the Yankees, which catapulted the Red Sox to their first world championship since 1918.
“I think we’re in the same position we were the other day,” Francona said. “We’ve been through a lot this year. We know who we are. There’s a lot of trust in there, as there should be.
“If we go out and play as good as we can play, you certainly hope that leads to a win. Believe me, I hope it leads to a win, or leads to two wins.”
The Indians squandered their opportunity to end the series at home, but with the series lead and one of the league’s top starters pitching for them tonight, they aren’t licking their wounds.
“We’re fine,” Wedge said. “We just had an off night. It’s one game. It’s over. We’re one win away from getting to where we want to get to.
“I think prior to the series we thought (the series) was going to go pretty deep.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.