Red Sox 5, Devil Rays 2

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Curt Schilling was in the right mood for strong outing.

Schilling pitched a six-hitter for his third complete game of the season and Jason Varitek hit a two-run homer, leading the Boston Red Sox over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5-2 Tuesday night.

“He showed up today, he wasn’t talking at all and that’s a great sign,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “When he’s ornery the day pitches, man, that’s good.”

Schilling (13-5) struck out seven and walked one in his 82nd complete game, improving to 3-0 at Tampa Bay, with two of the wins this season.

“I’ve been working on the changeup for a while,” Schilling said. “Tonight I probably threw more in a game than I have combined in my career, and for the most part it was a good pitch. For almost four months now, I have not had my spilt for an entire start, much less over a period of starts. I got tired of waiting for it to come back around. I’ve been working to get it back, but in lieu of that I needed something.”

Varitek made it 3-0 with a two-run homer in the fourth and Bill Mueller drove in three runs for the Red Sox, who have won two straight since dropping a pair to AL Central-leading Minnesota.

“Billy drove in three big runs for us and Curt did an awesome job on that mound for us,” Varitek said. “I was just able to capitalize on a good pitch to hit.”

Boston, 43-41 since opening the season 15-6, moved within eight games of AL East-leading New York and remained one-half game behind Texas, the wild-card leader. General manager Theo Epstein thinks the Red Sox can put together a strong run down the stretch.

“We just have to go out and do it,” he said. “We find ourselves in a dogfight for the postseason.”

Rocco Baldelli homered for Tampa Bay, 1-7 against Boston this season. The Devil Rays are 5-3 on a season long 13-game homestand.

Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella declined to talk with reporters after the game.

Rob Bell (4-5) allowed five runs and seven hits in six innings.

“With that lineup over there, you’re not going to trick them with smoke and mirrors,” Bell said. “You’ve got to get it done through three or four at-bats (against each hitter) as a starting pitcher.”

Boston won its first road series since June 4-6 at Kansas City. The Red Sox are 12-19 in their last 31 games away from Fenway Park.

The Devil Rays lost a series at home for the first time since May 28-30, when the Yankees took two of three.

Schilling retired 12 in a row after Aubrey Huff’s two-out single in the first, a streak that ended on Geoff Blum’s single with two outs in the fifth.

“He was good,” Huff said. “His game plan is stay away, stay away, stay away. He doesn’t make many mistakes.”

Mueller put the Red Sox up 1-0 with a second-inning RBI single and added a two-run double in the sixth that made it 5-0 lead.

Baldelli hit a solo homer in the sixth. Red Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez ended the inning by making a leaping catch against the wall on Huff’s drive.

“That was a great catch,” Francona said.

Tampa Bay’s Julio Lugo hit an RBI single in the ninth.

Notes

Dave Roberts went 0-for-5 in his Boston debut, starting in right and hitting leadoff. CF Johnny Damon was dropped from first to third and SS Orlando Cabrera batted second. “You may never see this lineup again,” Francona said. Boston 1B David Ortiz, who served the third game of a five-game suspension, usually hits third. Roberts, obtained Saturday from Los Angeles, probably will hit toward the bottom of the lineup when he starts. … Francona said Cabrera could eventually hit fifth on a regular basis. … Tampa Bay 1B Tino Martinez and OF Jose Cruz Jr. were out of the starting lineup. Both Martinez (3-for-19) and Cruz (2-for-28) have struggled against Schilling.

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