Red Sox 6, Braves 1

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ATLANTA (AP)—Boston’s bullpen needed a break, and the entire Red Sox team needed a lift.

Curt Schilling delivered.

Schilling pitched a six-hitter and Doug Mirabelli broke open a close game with a grand slam to power the Red Sox to a 6-1 win over the Atlanta Braves on Saturday night. Boston snapped a four-game losing streak.

“We desperately needed to win,” manager Terry Francona said. “Hopefully, tonight is the start of a real good run for us.”

Johnny Damon and Nomar Garciaparra each had three hits, including a homer. The Red Sox had dropped seven of nine, including back-to-back losses in extra innings to the New York Yankees and the Braves the previous two nights.

“Our bullpen was worn out,” Schilling said. “We needed innings out of me to stay fresh.”

Schilling responded with his 81st career complete game, and second of the season.

“He understood the situation,” Francona said. “He intended to finish that game from pitch one.”

Schilling (11-4) struck out 10 and walked one. With runners on first and third and one out in the fifth, Schilling struck out Rafael Furcal and Nick Green. He retired the last 10 batters he faced.

“He just had us all out of whack,” Braves first baseman Adam LaRoche said.

Garciaparra is 6-for-9 since missing Thursday night’s epic game at Yankee Stadium to rest his sore Achilles’ tendon, a decision which drew quite a public outcry in Boston. In two games, he has lifted his batting average from .235 to .286, prompting suggestions that the much-criticized day off in New York was needed.

“I wish you would go with that,” a smiling Francona said. “That would be great.”

Garciaparra missed the first 57 games of the season with right Achilles’ tendinitis and was activated on June 9.

“I’m just glad to be playing,” he said.

“That was a great win. You have to give a lot of credit to Curt Schilling. He pitched unbelievable. A complete game, giving the bullpen a rest, that was huge.”

A Turner Field record crowd of 51,831 included a strong contingent of Red Sox fans. The previous record was 51,638 for the 2002 season opener against Philadelphia.

The Braves (39-41) failed in their attempt to return to .500 for the first time since June 11. They are assured of finishing the 81-game midpoint of the schedule under .500 for the first time since 1990.

The Red Sox cut New York’s lead to 7 1/2 games in the AL East.

“These guys don’t give up,” Garciaparra said. “We believe in ourselves. Today was an example.”

Even as Boston has struggled, Schilling has been a consistent leader. Each of his last four wins have followed a Red Sox loss.

“On this club I didn’t expect to be stopping a lot of streaks,” Schilling said.

Boston was a modest 16-14 in May and 11-14 in June, but Schilling has pitched well. He’s 7-1 in his last nine starts and ranks among the AL leaders in wins, strikeouts, ERA and innings pitched.

Schilling led only 2-0 before the Red Sox chased Braves starter John Thomson with five runs on two homers—including Mirabelli’s second career slam—in the sixth inning.

With one out in the second, Garciaparra hit his second home run of the season 406 feet to center to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead against Thomson (6-7).

Damon led off the sixth inning with his seventh homer, pushing the lead to 2-0. With two outs, the Red Sox loaded the bases on singles by Manny Ramirez, Garciaparra and Bill Mueller. Mirabelli then hit a 3-2 fastball from Thomson over the left-center fence.

“All you want to do is contribute somehow,” Mirabelli said. “You want a base hit maybe, and a couple of runs.”

After giving up Mirabelli’s sixth homer and the first grand slam allowed by a Braves pitcher this season, Thomson leaned down and pounded the turf in anger with his right hand. Braves manager Bobby Cox then brought in rookie Sam McConnell from the bullpen.

Thomson allowed nine hits and six runs in 5 2-3 innings.

“I think my only mistake was the one Mirabelli hit, to tell you the truth,” Thomson said.

Four of the Braves’ first five hits off Schilling were doubles.

In the sixth inning, J.D. Drew led off with a double. With two outs, Drew scored on a broken-bat infield single by LaRoche, ending Schilling’s shutoutbid.


Mirabelli’s other grand slam came with Texas off Anaheim’s Scott Schoeneweis on Aug. 21, 2001. … Brothers J.D. and Tim Drew were on the field for the same team for the first time as major leaguers when reliever Tim Drewentered in the top of the eighth.

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