Sox Inch Closer To AL East Crown

BOSTON—Curt Schilling sat down for his post-game press conference Tuesday and took the cap off a bottle of diet soda. The cap slipped out of his hand and rolled on the table. It was about the only thing that didn't go the way of Schilling and the Red Sox Tuesday.

Schilling allowed one run in six solid innings, Jonathan Papelbon preserved a three-run lead and bailed Eric Gagne out of a jam with one pitch to end the eighth and the Sox piled on in the ninth as they beat the Athletics, 7-3, in front of another sellout crowd of 36,708.

Less than an hour after the Sox won, the Yankees fell to the Devil Rays in Florida, 7-6. That increased the Sox' AL East lead to three games with five to play and dropped their magic number for clinching the division to three.

While many of his teammates say they don't pay attention to how the Yankees are performing, Schilling broke from the usual script and admitted he found further motivation with a glimpse at the scoreboard in the fourth inning. "I saw the Yankees had gone up 5-0 [and] it was kind of a ‘Hey, no margin for error now. We need a win,'" Schilling said. "I thought we did some good things after that."

Schilling allowed one hit in every inning, but the only runner to get past second was Daric Barton, who homered in the first. He struck out six, including the side in the fourth, walked none and threw 86 pitches, including 62 strikes. Schilling has a 3.34 ERA in nine starts since returning from the disabled list Aug. 6 and admitted he's growing more comfortable with his metamorphosis into a craftsman.

"I'm more confident in what I'm doing," Schilling said. "I've changed physically as a pitcher and I've accepted that mentally and from an approach standpoint."

The Sox also got good news with the return of Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis, each of whom are expected to be vital cogs in the lineup next month. Ramirez, who missed the previous 24 games with a strained left oblique muscle, started in left, batted second—the first time in his career he's started a game in the two-hole—and laced a single in his first at-bat. He popped out and walked in his next two at-bats and was lifted for pinch-runner Brandon Moss in the fifth inning.

"He feels good, I thought he took some good swings," Terry Francona said. "It's a good start. The idea is to build, not go the other way."

Youkilis, who missed the previous seven games with a sore right wrist suffered when he was hit by a Chien-Ming Wang pitch Sept. 15, entered as a pinch-hitter for Eric Hinske in the fifth and went 0-for-2. "We'll play him tomorrow, maybe we'll hit him down lower in the order just to let him build some strength," Francona said. "I hope he hits six, seven times, but just try to get his bat in there and his glove, but not overdo him either."

J.D. Drew had three hits for the Sox while David Ortiz hit his 33rd homer, a mammoth two-run shot into the right field seats, to put the game away in the eighth. Jacoby Ellsbury, a last-second addition to the lineup in place of the ill Coco Crisp, had two RBI. The Sox drew 10 walks, including seven off Athletics starter Chad Gaudin, who left before recording an out in the fifth.


Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, please CLICK HERE.

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