Boston (65-47) at Kansas City (40-73)

Fair Currently: Kansas City, MO
Temp: 98° F
  • Game info: 8:10 pm EDT Thu Aug 10, 2006
  • TV: NESN, RTN
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As the leading winner and opening day starter for the Boston Red Sox, Curt Schilling is expected to be the team’s stopper.

The Red Sox turn to Schilling to help prevent their longest losing streak of the season and avoid a sweep by the worst team in the major leagues Thursday when they conclude their three-game series with the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

Boston (65-47) took a 2-0 lead in the first inning Wednesday night when Manny Ramirez hit a two-run homer to extend his career-best hitting streak to 24 games. The Red Sox led the rest of the way until the bottom of the ninth, when closer Jonathan Papelbon allowed two runs to blow his second consecutive save.

Mike Sweeney—in his second game since returning from the disabled list— singled home Mark Grudzielanek with the winning run as the Royals (40-73) won 5-4.

“It is a definite big threat with Sweeney in the middle of our lineup,” Royals starter Mark Redman said. “It definitely helps our offense out. It’s nice to have him back. It is almost like having a trade, getting a power bat back in the lineup.”

The defeat was the fourth straight for Boston, with all the losses coming against Kansas City and Tampa Bay, the AL’s two worst teams. The slide matches the Red Sox’s longest of the season, and they haven’t lost five in a row since May 1-4, 2004.

The losing streak has dropped the Red Sox three games behind the New York Yankees for the AL East lead and into third place in the wild-card race, 1 1/2 games behind Minnesota and one-half game back of the Chicago White Sox.

Boston’s division deficit is its largest since June 19, 2005, when it also trailed New York by three games.

Schilling (14-4, 3.78 ERA) is 18-6 after a Boston loss since joining the club in 2004, and he looks to become the first 15-game winner in the majors this season when he takes the mound for the series finale. He is tied with Toronto’s Roy Halladay and Detroit’s Justin Verlander for the major league lead in victories.

The 39-year-old right-hander earned Boston’s last win on Friday at Tampa Bay, when he allowed two runs in seven innings of a 3-2 victory. The outing drew rave reviews from catcher Javy Lopez, who made his Red Sox debut in the contest.

“It’s so easy. He’s a Cy Young winner, a veteran. It’s a totally different feeling,” said Lopez, who was acquired from Baltimore prior to Friday’s game. “I feel like when I was in Atlanta catching all those great guys.”

Schilling is 3-1 with a 3.30 ERA and three saves in 10 career appearances, including three starts, against the Royals.

He also has not issued more than two walks in any of his 24 starts this season—a track record far different than that of Thursday’s Royals starter, Runelvys Hernandez (2-7, 8.54).

Hernandez walked nine batters in 4 2-3 innings against the Twins Saturday, allowing nine runs and four hits in a 14-3 loss. Royals relievers issued five more walks in that contest, setting a franchise record with 14 in a game.

“It is hard to watch,” Royals manager Buddy Bell said. “Runelvys’ stuff is probably as good as I’ve seen it since I’ve been here as far as velocity. It doesn’t matter if you can’t throw your fastballs for a strike. Walks are hard for me to explain at this level.”

Thursday isn’t likely to be easier for the right-hander against a patient Boston lineup. The Red Sox walked nine times Wednesday and lead the majors with 475 this season.

Hernandez did not receive a decision in his only career start against the Red Sox on Aug. 2 of last season when he gave up three runs and four hits in six innings, walking three and striking out three.

The Royals are going for their first series sweep since taking three games from Pittsburgh from June 20-22. They have not swept the Red Sox in a three-game series since April 26-28, 1996.

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Starting Pitchers

C. Schilling Bos vs. R. Hernandez Hou
15-7 Record 6-10
3.97 ERA 6.48
183 K 50
28 BB 48
1.22 WHIP 1.76

Scoreboard

Thursday, Aug 10