Coming off his first win since returning to the starting rotation, Schilling will try to build on that effort when the AL East leaders open a four-game series with the playoff-hopeful Oakland Athletics at Fenway Park.
Schilling led the AL with 21 wins in 2004, and helped Boston to its first World Series title in 86 years by pitching through an injured right ankle that required offseason surgery. The 38-year-old right-hander pitched briefly in April before going on the disabled list for two months due to continued soreness in the ankle.
Upon his return in mid-June, Schilling worked his way back into shape by pitching out of the bullpen, primarily as Boston’s closer. However, he was erratic at best in 21 appearances, going 3-3 while converting nine of 11 save chances.
Schilling rejoined the starting rotation on Aug. 25 and went 0-2 with a 7.79 ERA in three starts before Saturday’s 9-2 victory over the archrival New York Yankees.
Returning to the site of his heroic performance in Game 6 of last year’s ALCS, a 4-2 win that sent the series to a Game 7, Schilling allowed two runs and five hits over a season-high eight innings, striking out six and walking two.
“That’s the Schilling that everybody knows,” teammate David Ortiz said.
Schilling also seemed enthused by the performance.
“I feel great,” Schilling said. “Physically, I’ve had no problems. It’s just a combination of performance and confidence.”
Boston finished up a 3-3 road trip with Wednesday’s 5-3 victory at Toronto. Ortiz, emerging as the top candidate for AL MVP honors, hit his career-high 42nd homer, a tiebreaking two-run drive in the eighth inning that helped Boston stay 2 1/2 games in front of second-place New York in the AL East.
Ortiz finished with three RBIs for the Red Sox, who lost outfielder Gabe Kapler to a ruptured left Achilles’ tendon, suffered while he was rounding second base on Tony Graffanino’s fifth-inning homer.
The A’s had a chance to move into a first-place tie in the AL West, but suffered a 6-4 loss at wild card-leading Cleveland on Wednesday in the deciding game of their series.
Oakland is 3-3 on its 10-game road trip.