BOSTON (AP) -Curt Schilling wasn't sure if it was his last start for the Boston Red Sox. He just knew he wanted to make it a good one.
``It did dawn on me,'' the pitcher said before Game 6 of the AL championship series. ``It's not something that worries me or that I think about, beyond just the initial thought of it could be all over for me.
``No matter how badly I want to come back here and how badly I want to be a part of this, it takes two to tango, and if it's not in the cards on their end, then it's not going to happen.''
Schilling's contract is about to expire. He's spent the past four years in Boston, helping the Red Sox end their 86-year title drought in 2004. He also beat the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night, pushing the ALCS to a decisive seventh game.
Third baseman Mike Lowell is the other big potential free agent for the Red Sox as they look toward the offseason.
Doug Mirabelli, the personal catcher for knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, is also eligible for free agency after a season in which he batted .202. The Red Sox traded him once, then wound up begging to get him back when replacement Josh Bard struggled to handle the fluttering pitch.
Matt Clement, who hasn't pitched since June 2006, also has an expiring contract. Boston's other potential free agents are role players such as infielder Royce Clayton, outfielders Eric Hinske and Bobby Kielty, and relievers Julian Tavarez, Mike Timlin and Eric Gagne.
Like Schilling, Lowell has said he wants to return to Boston. The difference is that Schilling is coming off an off-year in which he spent almost two months on the disabled list and Lowell is coming off a career year in which he batted .324 with 21 homers and 120 RBIs.
Lowell's rising price could lead the Red Sox to look elsewhere - south, for example, where Alex Rodriguez could opt out of his contract with the Yankees. Or, Boston could move Kevin Youkilis to third and try to find a first baseman on the open market.
Whether Schilling returns will also come down to the going price for a 40-year-old righty who is morphing from the guy who blew batters away to one who nibbled away at them. After previously saying 2007 would be his last season, he told the Red Sox in spring training he would accept a one-year extension at his current salary of $13 million, but the team opted to wait.
He went 9-8 with a 3.87 ERA this season, missing most of two months with shoulder tendinitis. After throwing seven shutout innings in the first round of the playoffs against the Los Angeles Angels, he couldn't make it out of the fifth inning in his first ALCS start.
But he followed that up with seven solid innings Saturday night, allowing a second-inning homer before blanking the Indians until Ryan Garko tripled and scored in the seventh to make it 10-2.
With the victory, Schilling improved to 4-0 in his career when his team faced postseason elimination. His team has won all five of his starts in such situations.
``It's five trips I would have taken earlier going home,'' he said. ``It's nice. We're playing a Game 7. I mean, there's nothing, I think, (more fun) in sports than a Game 7, regardless of the venue.''
Schilling was initially reluctant to come to Boston, in part because he thought Fenway Park wasn't a good fit for him. But the Red Sox persuaded him to waive his no-trade clause in Arizona and signed him to a lucrative contract extension he personally hammered out over Thanksgiving dinner at his house.
The deal included an option for the 2007 season that became guaranteed when Boston won the 2004 World Series. Schilling was instrumental in ending the franchise's 86-year title drought, making the now-famous bloody sock starts that cemented his reputation as one of the best pressure pitchers in baseball history.
On Saturday night, he improved to 10-2 with a 2.25 ERA in the postseason. After finishing Cleveland off in the inning, he left to the now-customary standing ovation, tipping his cap to the crowd and waving to the box where his family sits.
``Those are the moments you don't ever forget,'' Schilling said. ``The crowd tonight from the first inning on I thought had an incredible, they had an incredible effect on me.
``I don't know how they affected other people, but it's a privilege to be able to play here and experience this.''

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