Schilling still perfect with romp over Rays
Curt Schilling was practically a blur to the Devil Rays lineup, as he struck out seven over six innings while improving his record to 4-0. (Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis)
They have the best record in the majors (11-4), which after 15 games of a baseball season is like saying winning the New Hampshire primary means you're the next president of the United States.
Yet the positive story lines keep developing and emerging. Last night, it was the story of a Red Sox lineup that scored seven runs in the third, their largest output in any inning this season, and rolled to a 9-1 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays before 36,454 at Fenway Park. It was also the six innings Curt Schilling threw to improve to 4-0 with a 1.61 ERA, the best start of his career.
''It worked out well," said manager Terry Francona. ''We put a nice crooked number up early and we got to stay away from some guys [Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Timlin] in the pen we wanted to."
Schilling allowed six hits and one walk and seven strikeouts.
''Tonight was very much a struggle for me from a consistency standpoint," Schilling said. ''That's one thing that a great defense would do for you. Overlooked, I think, is the play Mark [Loretta] made in the first inning. And Travis [Lee] follows it up with a double and it would have been a 1-0 game if he hadn't made that play. And who knows what goes from there? And, obviously, Adam [Stern] made a phenomenal play."
Second baseman Loretta made a backhanded stop of a shot hit up the middle by No. 2 hitter Jorge Cantu and retired him with an off-balance throw.
Then Stern robbed Toby Hall of extra bases as he slammed into the wall in left-center after making a leaping, running grab in the sixth to end Schilling's outing. Stern will be demoted to Triple A Pawtucket today after fulfilling his Rule 5 obligation with the big club.
Besides Lee's first-inning, ground-rule double with two outs, Schilling allowed a Cantu double to left with two outs in the third and a double in the fifth to Hall. But nothing significant came of those uprisings, except for a run in the fifth when Hall scored on Joey Gathright's single to shortstop.
The Sox, meanwhile, were buoyed by the continuing emergence of first baseman Kevin Youkilis, who went 3 for 4 with two RBIs at the top of the order.
The converted third baseman, who is hitting .386 in his last 12 games with five doubles, and who has a .486 on-base percentage in his eight starts as the leadoff hitter, got Schilling off on the right foot with a home run over the Monster seats in the first inning against Doug Waechter.
As usual, the 27-year-old Youkilis took little credit for the win saying, ''We're playing good ball right now. For me, now it's what I'm not doing wrong. I'm trying not to do too much."
That was just the beginning for Waechter, who went 2 2/3 innings, allowing seven runs (six earned) on five hits and three walks, with two strikeouts.
''Bad night," said Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon. ''We just didn't get the starting pitching we needed against their starting pitching and that made it a bit more difficult."
In the seven-run third, Youkilis stroked a one-out single to center to start the rally. Loretta followed with a single to center, and Gathright's throw from center field to third went into the stands on one bounce, allowing Youkilis to score. After David Ortiz was walked intentionally, Manny Ramírez also walked, loading the bases. Trot Nixon then singled to right field, knocking in the second run of the inning.
Jason Varitek hit a sacrifice fly before Mike Lowell stroked a double to center, scoring a pair of runs. Lowell has ripped seven doubles in the last eight games.
After righthander Jason Childers was summoned in relief of Waechter, Stern reached when Childers missed the toss from Travis Lee on a ground ball to first, extending the inning.
After a wild pitch and walk to Gonzalez, Youkilis again delivered with a single to shallow left field, knocking in the seventh run of the inning.
The Devil Rays didn't start the day on the right foot. Left fielder Carl Crawford was an early scratch because of a sore shoulder he suffered while diving for a Ramírez line drive Tuesday night. He was replaced in left by Ty Wigginton. And whether it was the wind or last-minute position change (he was originally in the lineup in right field), Wigginton had a horrible night, committing two errors in the fifth inning.
''The errors didn't help," said Maddon, ''but come on, that really wasn't the reason. We just didn't pitch well enough at the beginning of the game."