Schilling, Ortiz team up to bully A's
Ace yields just two hits; Big Papi knocks in three runs
BOSTON -- Before the Red Sox took on the A's on Saturday night at Fenway Park, Boston's starting pitcher, Curt Schilling, was sitting on a couch in the clubhouse watching the Yankees demolish the White Sox. With his team's first-place lead in the American League East whittled down to one game, Schilling was relaxed, exuding the confidence of a 19-year veteran who has been in this situation before and knew what had to be done.
Schilling pitched seven innings of shutout ball, allowing just two hits and one walk in Boston's 7-0 win over Oakland, as the Red Sox ended a three-game slide.
"I'm aware of what's going on and how things are," Schilling said. "We lost three straight, but coming off the break, we lost two games. We get clobbered last night and our bullpen's taxed a little bit, and I know that's what they pay me to do.
"They pay me to go out there and, on nights like tonight, give our offense the chance to put the pressure on. You never want to be in these situations, especially when you're in first place, but I've always relished the ability to answer the bell in situations like this."
The 39-year-old began the second half of the season continuing in his vehement defiance of the aging process. The ace improved his record at home to 7-0 this season and secured his 11th win of the year.
"I love pitching here," Schilling said. "I've always loved pitching here. Certainly, I don't let down when we leave here, but this is just an incredibly different environment to pitch in."
Schilling set the tone early with a 1-2-3 first inning in which he got two of his nine strikeouts on the day. In five of the seven innings he pitched, Schilling faced the minimum three batters.
His control was masterful, as he worked every inch of the strike zone and left Oakland hitters befuddled and frustrated. He had 17 first-pitch strikes and an uncharacteristically low three fly-ball outs.
"I thought he was as good tonight as he has been in a long time," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "I don't think he threw too many pitches where he didn't want to. It was really a good performance. You get guys like [Schilling], you send him out there [and] no matter who is pitching for the other team, you feel like you have a good chance to win."
After managing seven runs over the first two games of the series, the Red Sox's bats awoke from their slumber, scoring seven runs on 12 hits, including a four-run third inning.
After Manny Ramirez doubled off Dan Haren to lead off the bottom of the second inning, Mike Lowell doubled him home for the game's first run. Although that was more than enough, given Schilling's brilliance, the Red Sox piled it on during the next inning.
David Ortiz extended the lead in the third with a rare triple, only the 10th of his career, that took an awkward carom past Milton Bradley in right field to score Kevin Youkilis and Mark Loretta. Ortiz's last triple was June 19, 2005, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He also added his 32 home run and Major League-leading ninth dinger in July in the eighth inning.
"I love it when you see those arms moving going around second," Francona said. "That's the funniest thing. That's a big body, and you get those arms swinging."
"That's a lot of running involved in a triple," Ortiz said. "It's easier to call a homer than a triple. When you hit a ball like that down the line, you definitely wanna get to second. When you see the ball bouncing all over the place, now you gotta take your chances and go to third base."
Ramirez followed with an RBI single off Haren, and Lowell hit a sacrifice fly to put the score at 5-0.
Rookie Manny Delcarmen relieved Schilling in the eighth inning and gave up a deep fly ball with two runners on, but Coco Crisp caught the ball to keep the shutout intact. Fellow rookie Craig Hansen closed out the ninth to give the Red Sox their first shutout this season.
Howard Kussoy is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.