The veteran right-hander takes the mound Sunday afternoon when the Red Sox meet the Minnesota Twins in the deciding contest of their three-game series at the Metrodome.
Boston (19-10) shut out the Twins 2-0 in Friday’s series opener, but fell just short Saturday in a 2-1 defeat that snapped its overall three-game winning streak. The Red Sox have won four of their five road series this season, and lost for just the second time in their last nine road contests.
Boston is trying for its first series win at the Metrodome since a four-game sweep in 2000. Schilling (3-1, 3.15 ERA) looks to help the Red Sox achieve that goal as he tries to win his fourth straight decision.
The right-hander has lasted at least seven innings in each of his last five starts, holding opponents to two or fewer runs in four of those outings. He gave up two runs and eight hits over seven innings, but didn’t factor into a 5-4, 10-inning defeat to Oakland on Tuesday.
The 40-year-old Schilling walked none and struck out seven, but didn’t dwell on the bullpen’s inability to hold the lead.
“We put ourselves in that position 55, 60 times this year, we’re going to win probably every other one of them,” Schilling told the Red Sox official Web site. “There is nothing you can do about it.”
Schilling has certainly taken care of business against the Twins (16-14), going 1-0 with a 1.03 ERA and four saves in nine career games, including three starts. He has allowed only three runs through 26 1-3 innings, walking three and striking out 19.
Schilling will have to contend with Twins’ center fielder Torii Hunter, who is riding a career-high 20-game hitting streak, matching Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees for the longest in the majors this season. Hunter is batting .378 with five homers, 12 doubles and 17 RBIs during the streak and is 4-for-8 lifetime versus Schilling.
“We need it right now, with all the other guys beat up and banged up,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Twins catcher Joe Mauer was a late scratch Saturday with a sore left quadriceps muscle and replaced by Mike Redmond. Mauer, the reigning AL batting champion, will have a precautionary MRI test done on his leg Sunday, the team said, and probably won’t play.
Minnesota also continues to be without right fielder Michael Cuddyer (bruised back), who is hoping to return for Tuesday’s series opener against the Chicago White Sox. The bullpen threw four shutout innings Saturday, and Jason Bartlett drove in the deciding run on an infield single in the second inning to help Minnesota snap a three-game skid.
Saturday’s win was just the second in the last seven games at the Metrodome for the Twins, who boasted the best home record in the majors last season at 54-27. They’ll hand the ball to Sidney Ponson (2-3, 6.67), who is trying to win back-to-back starts for the first time since a three-start winning streak April 15-27, 2006, while he was with the St. Louis Cardinals.
The right-hander dropped his ERA nearly two full runs with a strong performance Tuesday. He held Tampa Bay to one run and five hits over seven innings in a 9-1 win, walking two and striking out five in his longest start of the season.
Ponson has struggled versus the Red Sox, going 3-10 with a 6.69 ERA in 19 career starts, which is tied for his second-most losses against any opponent.
Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who spent his first six seasons with Minnesota, is batting .444 (16-for-36) with two homers and four doubles during his career against Ponson.