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Schilling picks up first shutout since April 7, 2002

5/9/2003

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Curt Schilling has been so good for so long,
the Arizona Diamondbacks usually don't get overly excited when he
makes an exceptional start. This time, they did.

Schilling, finally looking like the dominating pitcher of the
last two seasons, limited slumping Pittsburgh to four singles in
his first shutout in more than a year and the Diamondbacks beat the
Pirates 5-0 Friday night.

Rod Barajas drove in Arizona's first two runs and Junior Spivey
hit a three-run homer as the Pirates lost their seventh straight --
matching their longest losing streak in two seasons.

Schilling (2-2) was much better than he was Saturday against
Atlanta, when he allowed five runs and eight hits in five innings
in his first start since April 17. He was out for 2½ weeks after
his appendix was removed April 19.

"That's the Curt Schilling we like to see," manager Bob Brenly
said. "The ball was jumping out of his hand. He throwing 97-98,
and he was moving the ball in and out, up and down. When he's doing
that, that's what can happen to a ballclub."

Retiring 16 of the first 17 batters, Schilling (2-2) struck out
10 and walked none in by far his most effective start this season.
He allowed at least two runs in each of his first five starts,
lasting more than six innings only twice.

"I've probably been the worst starting pitcher on the staff,
and it's been disappointing and frustrating," said Schilling, who
won 45 games the last two seasons. "It's May, and I only had one
victory. The way things are going for us, I'm expected to win."

Schilling repeatedly got ahead in the count with fastballs that
reached 99 mph, then mixed in breaking balls and a splitter Pirates
shortstop Jack Wilson said was unhittable.

"The ball was exploding out of his hand," Wilson said. "You
couldn't even see the split. It got to the plate and disappeared."

The shutout was Schilling's 18th and his first since beating
Milwaukee on April 7, 2002. He has pitched one shutout in each of
the last five seasons.

With ace Randy Johnson out for another five weeks following knee
surgery, the Diamondbacks badly need Schilling to return to his
23-win form of last season. Before Friday, Schilling and Johnson
were a combined 2-4 -- a major turnaround from last season, when
they were 13-2 at this point of the season.

"He hasn't been himself until now, with the appendectomy, but
he was himself tonight," Barajas said. "He's back to where he's
been in the past, and it showed. It was the ninth inning, and he
was still throwing 98 miles per hour."

No doubt Schilling welcomed facing the Pirates, who were coming
off a four-game sweep by Houston and six consecutive losses to end
a 4-6 road trip. Schilling is 13-3 against them in 16 starts since
the 1996 season and 14-6 in his career.

Schilling is 3-0 against Pittsburgh the last two seasons,
including a pair of wins only five days apart last May.

Manager Lloyd McClendon, perhaps reflecting the Pirates' growing
frustration, was ejected in the fourth by first base umpire Charlie
Reliford. McClendon became upset when Reliford called Kenny Lofton
out on a close play as he scrambled back to the bag on Jason
Kendall's line out to third.

"I'm still a little puzzled as to why I was throw out. I didn't
go off until after I got thrown out,'"McClendon said. "It wasn't
a case of trying to get to thrown out to fire up my team -- that
stuff doesn't work against a guy like Curt Schilling."

Jeff D'Amico (2-4) tried to match Schilling for a while,
limiting Arizona to one run -- on Barajas' RBI single in the second
_ through five innings. But he appeared to tire in the sixth, when
Danny Bautista singled for his third straight hit and Barajas
followed with an RBI single.

Barajas was 2-for-4 and is 16-for-31 since coming off the
disabled list April 28.

Spivey followed Alex Cintron's single with his three-run shot to
left-center, the deepest part of PNC Park. It was his fifth homer,
and came three innings after he fouled a ball off his instep with
such force, he felt his foot might be broken.

"I was in quite a bit of pain," he said. "I was just glad I
was able to get through that."

Game notes
Arizona is 27-11 against Pittsburgh. The Diamondbacks have
never had a losing record against the Pirates since joining the NL
in 1998. ... McClendon was ejected four times last season. ... The
Pirates are a season-low seven games under .500 after losing 12 of
16. ... The Pirates' 4-12 road record is the NL's worst. Only
Detroit (2-12) has a worse record in the AL. ... Diamondbacks 1B
coach Robin Yount was out with the flu. He was replaced by Dwayne
Murphy.

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