Now is not the time for Curt Schilling to fall into a funk.

And while it's safe to say he's not there yet -- after all, he's won two straight starts and holds a 3.75 ERA in August -- he's been teetering on the brink of disaster for some time now.

Every good Schilling start, it seems, comes packaged with a bad one. He fired a one-hitter at Oakland back in July, and for his encore, he allowed 15 runs over his next 15 1/3 innings. Then he blanked the Orioles for six innings, only to serve up five runs to the Angels in his very next outing.

He won that game, however, and won the next one as well. And the Red Sox would like nothing more for him to make that three straight on Thursday afternoon against the Yankees.

"If he's consistent with his stuff every five or six days, he's certainly not going to forget how to pitch or compete," said manager Terry Francona. "So if he's able to go out and have consistent stuff, I think we're going to be better off more often than not."

The Red Sox could use precisely that. It's not as if they need to sweat quite yet, with their American League East lead still standing tall at six games. But losing two straight to the Yankees has a way of magnifying every fault.

So even Schilling, whose 8-5 record and 4.11 ERA would be considered just fine by most standards, isn't immune to a little skepticism.

"He still knows how to pitch," Francona said. "That was the one thing that really jumped out, even in the Anaheim game. When he's able execute, he knows what he wants to do."

The Red Sox know what they want to do as well, and that's bury their rivals. Should the Yankees pull off a series sweep -- and they need just one more win to do it -- the Red Sox will exit the Bronx with their division lead shaved to five games and another three games to come against the Bombers in September.

Not to mention that the Yankees have the right man on the mound to complete that sweep in their young ace, Chien-Ming Wang. Wang leads the team with 15 wins, after flirting with 20 a season ago.

So a Sox victory on Thursday would do as much for Boston's psyche as it would for the team's stature in the standings. And Schilling -- whichever Schilling shows up -- gives the Red Sox as much of a chance for that win as anyone.

"Consistency is what we're looking for, not one start here and there," Francona said. "I think it's the same thing for him."

Yankees Coverage
Jeter's late homer lifts Yanks
Yanks gear up for lesser opponents
Chamberlain springs curve on Sox
Notes: Peace of mind for Posada

Red Sox Coverage
Schilling's gem ends with loss
Bauman: Game mirrors Classic duel
Sox don't take lead for granted
Notes: Matsuzaka pushed back
Season Series
Yankees win 10-8
• 9/16: Yankees 4, Red Sox 3
• 9/15: Red Sox 10,Yankees 1
• 9/14: Yankees 8, Red Sox 7
Previous season series
2006: Yankees 11, Red Sox 8
2005: Yankees 10, Red Sox 9
2004: Red Sox 11, Yankees 8

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Curt Schilling (8-5, 4.11 ERA)
Schilling has allowed five earned runs all three times he's faced the Yankees this season. Twice, the team has won, though the right-hander was long gone on both occasions. And while wins are the bottom line, Schilling can't be encouraged by the fact that the Yankees are hitting him at a .372 clip.

NYY: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (15-6, 3.95 ERA)
Wang bounced back from two rough starts to give the Yankees two solid ones, lasting eight innings in a win at Detroit last week. If he can beat the Red Sox, it would mark the fourth time this season that he's had a winning streak of at least three games. Wang has been shaky in three starts against the Red Sox this year, allowing nearly two baserunners per inning, but still managing to win two of his three starts.

Player to watch
Right fielder Bobby Abreu is the only Yankees regular to have never homered off Schilling. But with 14 hits in 37 career at-bats, he also holds a .378 average off the right-hander, tops on the team.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• NESN

On radio
• WEEI 850, WROL (Español)

Up next
• Friday: Orioles (Radhames Liz, 0-1, 7.50) at Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 16-10, 4.16), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Orioles (Garrett Olson, 1-2, 7.33) at Red Sox (Julian Tavarez, 7-9, 4.84), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Orioles (Daniel Cabrera, 9-13, 5.08) at Red Sox (Jon Lester, 2-0, 5.67), 2:05 p.m. ET