Red Sox 11, Devil Rays 4
“In a couple of weeks, hopefully, it will get a lot better,” he said after becoming the first 20-game winner in the major leagues with an 11-4 victory Thursday night over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
By that time, he hopes, the Red Sox will have clinched the AL East title. They trail the Yankees by 3 1/2 games, but the teams have six meetings left— three in New York this weekend and three in Boston beginning next Friday.
“This is a great warmup,” Johnny Damon said, referring to Boston’s 24th victory in 29 games. “This is the time to shine. I think this is the best assembled team in the league and it’s time to show it.”
The Red Sox have slashed a deficit of 10 1/2 games on Aug. 15, but the Yankees are coming off back-to-back shutouts in Kansas City.
“It’s not like it’s the first time we’ve played them,” Jason Varitek said. “We have to concentrate each day on each game. Whatever happens the first day, put it aside.”
Boston leads the season series 8-5, but New York has the best home record in baseball, 50-21.
Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella was too concerned about his own problems to discuss what advantage Schilling (20-6) and Pedro Martinez (16-6) might give Boston in the playoffs.
“The Yankees and Red Sox can settle their own affairs,” Piniella said. “Good luck to whoever comes out on top.”
On Thursday, Damon and Kevin Millar each homered and drove in four runs, and Boston scored at least nine runs for the fifth time in Schilling’s last six starts. The right-hander has won seven straight starts for the first time in his career. He has 20 wins in three of the last four years and is 11-1 at home this season.
“He has not let us down one bit” since being traded by Arizona last November, Boston manager Terry Francona said. “He’s been tremendous and he will continue to be.”
Schilling allowed four runs and eight hits in 7 2-3 innings and hasn’t lost since Aug. 9 against Tampa Bay. He struck out six and walked two after five straight starts without a bases on balls. He walked Tino Martinez with two outs in the second inning, ending his streak at 38 innings.
“My goal is innings,” Schilling said. “Playing on a team like this, if you pitch innings, you’re going to win a lot of games.”
Baseball’s highest-scoring team staked Schilling to a 3-0 lead in the first against Mark Hendrickson (8-15), who has lost his last seven starts.
“He’s been in a rut,” said Piniella, who plans to put Hendrickson in the bullpen.
Bobby Webb, called up Tuesday, allowed two homers in the seventh, Millar’s 17th of the year, a two-run shot, and Damon’s 16th, a three-run shot that made it 11-1.
“This is almost like a tryout camp,” Piniella said. “The ones who pitch a little better will get the ball again and the other guys can sit out there and get some meal money.”
The Devil Rays knocked Schilling out in the eighth with an RBI groundout by Aubrey Huff and a two-run double by Geoff Blum. Tampa Bay was hitless until Julio Lugo led off the fourth with a double and scored its first run on Rocco Baldelli’s 14th homer in the sixth.
“They never let up,” Baldelli said of the Red Sox. “When you slip up, they take advantage right away and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Schilling can match his win totals with Arizona in 2001, when he went 22-6, and 2002, when he was 23-7. He slipped to 8-9 in an injury-plagued 2003 in which he posted a 2.95 ERA, fifth-best in the NL.
Hendrickson held Boston hitless the next three innings before Bellhorn doubled in a run in the fifth. The Red Sox made it 6-1 in the sixth on RBI singles by Kevin Youkilis off Chad Gaudin and Damon off Bobby Seay.
Now it’s time for the Yankees.
“We have played ourselves into a position where this is a huge series,” Francona said.
The Red Sox have 201 homers, the sixth time in franchise history with more than 200. The club record of 238 was set last year. … Tampa Bay is 3-7 on its 13-game road trip, its longest of the season. … Boston activated LHP Lenny DiNardo from the 60-day disabled list and designated INF Tim Hummel for assignment