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Schilling struggles but gets win for Sox

In the time the Red Sox and Blue Jays needed yesterday to play 8 1/2 innings of baseball, Ethiopia's Hailu Negussie, at his Boston Marathon-winning pace, could have completed about 44 miles.

Marathon Monday, indeed.

The Sox and Jays combined for 32 hits, 19 runs, 360 pitches, and four sightings of a manager arguing a call (Terry Francona got to stay, the Jays' John Gibbons did not).

Curt Schilling, in his second appearance this season, gave up 10 of those hits and needed 118 pitches to complete the five innings needed for a win, which he got. The Sox' 12-7 win marked Schilling's first of 2005, was taken in by 35,243 on a sun-splashed day in the Fens, and lasted 3 hours 41 minutes.

Schilling left leading, 9-5, thanks largely to Manny Ramirez. The scoreboard totals at the time of Schilling's exit both came in large part because of Ramirez. He cranked two more home runs, his second two-homer game in three days, and lost two balls in the sun. Both initially were scored an error, though the second ball -- hit in a near-identical spot -- later was changed to a hit.

Ramirez's difficulties led to Schilling being charged with just three earned runs. Combining yesterday and Schilling's debut vs. the Yankees last week, the righthander has allowed 10 runs (eight earned) on 18 hits, 15 Ks, and three walks in 10 2/3 innings this season. That's a 6.75 ERA, with a 1-1 record.

Francona and Schilling both used the word "weird" in describing how he's pitched. Francona used it in assessing Schilling's line yesterday: 10 hits, 10 strikeouts, 2 walks. Schilling said he's had "two very weird outings."

"There's a lot of inconsistencies, a lot of baserunners," he said. "My fastball is anywhere from 87 to 94 [miles per hour]. I'm not sure what the inconsistency is there. . . . I threw my hardest in the fourth and fifth inning, which is confusing to me."

Schilling's day, which began with a 5:30 a.m. wake-up, a 6:05 departure from The House That Drew Bledsoe Built, and a 6:45 arrival at the ballpark, was doomed to be brief by the end of the second inning. He's never been a day-game pitcher -- his day ERA (3.68) is a half-run higher than his night ERA (3.18) -- and he needed 56 pitches to complete two innings yesterday, including a 40-pitch top of the second.

The second ended with an epic at-bat for Jays left fielder Frank Catalanotto with the bases loaded and two outs. It featured: two mound visits by catcher Jason Varitek (one before and one during the at-bat), two Marathon fly-bys by twin fighter planes, an error (on a foul ball dropped by Bill Mueller), a 2-and-2 pitch that had Schilling walking off thinking it was strike three, and 10 total pitches, the last a 93 m.p.h. fastball that zipped past Catalanotto's bat.

Including Catalanotto, the last three Jays who batted in the second forced Schilling to throw 27 pitches.

"His velocity was there," said Jays center fielder Vernon Wells. "I think we just did a good job of putting the bat on the ball and we spoiled some good pitches and we were able to get his pitch count up. He looked the same as he did last year."

Schilling, in his postgame news conference, reiterated that overall health and the health of his ankle are not an issue.

"I felt good," he said. "I don't know [that] the results are showing."

Schilling, however, could afford to be less than dominant, given the offensive assistance he received.

Ramirez, who needed 39 at-bats and 11 games to launch his first homer of 2004, homered in the second inning and sixth, knocking in five runs. He's homered four times in his last 11 at-bats dating to the third inning Saturday vs. Tampa Bay. He's cranked four balls over the Monster and knocked in 11 runs in the last three games.

But Ramirez had a few adventures in left moments apart in the Blue Jays' half of the fourth. With one out in the inning, an Orlando Hudson liner came down just over Ramirez's glove in front of the Wall and nearly hit Ramirez in the face. Two batters later, Catalanotto hit a ball just a bit deeper that Ramirez played similarly and missed similarly, though by a bit wider margin.

Catalanotto also lost a ball in the sun later in the game, saving some face for Ramirez.

"We've seen Manny have a train wreck out there," Francona said, insinuating that these were not calamities of that variety. "He lost it. The tough part is Schill was really battling. You take a deep breath, and then you have to reload."

Schilling went on to give up two unearned runs in the inning. He labored some more in the fifth, when he surrendered two leadoff singles. Catalanotto's single scored two, pulling Toronto within 9-5 on Schilling's 113th pitch.

By then it was evident Schilling was still in the game only because he needed five innings to record the win. "He comes out and gets me there, I'm going to be upset," Schilling said.

Francona said he was willing to give Schilling the next two batters, Gregg Zaun and ex-Sox third baseman Shea Hillenbrand (who went 4 for 4 and was hit by a pitch). But Schilling whiffed Zaun on his 118th pitch, a 90 m.p.h. fastball. Ramirez's second homer, which increased the lead to 11-5, landed on the shelf in front of the first row of Monster seats and quickly bounced back onto the field. Francona skipped out to argue the initial ruling that the ball never left the field of play.

The umps reversed the call, and that brought Gibbons out of the dugout. He was soon ejected.

Home, it seems, is treating the Sox rather well. After opening the season 2-4 in New York and Toronto, and being outscored, 37-26, in those games, the Sox are 6-1 on this eight-game homestand that ends tonight vs. Toronto. In those seven games they've outscored New York, Tampa Bay, and Toronto, 49-21.

According to statistician Chuck Waseleski, the line on opposing starting pitchers on this homestand is: 29 2/3 IP, 42 hits, 38 runs (35 earned), 26 walks, 24 strikeouts, and a 10.62 ERA.

And no one has done more of that damage than Ramirez.

"Manny's at peace when he's in the batters' box," said Trot Nixon. "He's seeing the ball well right now."

Same can be said for his teammates.

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