Braves 9, Red Sox 4

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ATLANTA (AP)—Brian McCann was in a slump. He knew where to turn.

One night after getting some much-needed hitting advice from his dad, the Atlanta catcher homered and drove in four runs off Curt Schilling to lead the Braves past the Boston Red Sox 9-4 on Monday.

Schilling never got up to speed, enduring his first strikeout-free start since 1993 and his second straight poor outing since nearly pitching a no-hitter at Oakland.

McCann was coming off a 3-for-22 road trip when the Braves returned home Sunday night. He called his father, who runs a batting complex in suburban Atlanta, and went by to get some after-hours pointers.

“Things were snowballing,” said McCann, who had been 26-for-116 (.224) since injuring his left ring finger. “I needed to go back to where it all started.”

His father had noticed a tiny flaw in McCann’s swing. They watched film and talked about what he needed to do to fix it. It didn’t take long for the young catcher to put the advice to good use.

“It was the first time in a long time that it was just me and him,” McCann said. “I needed it.”

McCann doubled in a run in the fourth, putting the Braves ahead to stay, then finished off Schilling with a three-run homer into the center-field seats in the fifth.

Schilling (6-4) was rocked for 10 hits and six runs in 4 1-3 innings, his second-shortest outing of the season. More telling, the 40-year-old right-hander failed to strike out anyone—the first time that’s happened in one of his starts since July 1, 1993.

“It’s embarrassing,” Schilling said. “I never gave us a chance. You want to walk around the room and apologize to everybody. Your manager, your teammates, fans. There’s no excuse for a game like that.”

Schilling scraped along through the first four innings, but he couldn’t escape the fifth. With one out, Edgar Renteria and Chipper Jones hit consecutive singles to bring up McCann. He worked the count in his favor, then drove a 2-1 pitch to the right of the 400-foot sign.

Coco Crisp made a valiant effort, leaping up to grab the top of the wall, but the ball landed in the first row of the bleachers. Schilling stood near the mound, looking toward the spot in disbelief.

The Braves noticed early on that Schilling didn’t have his usual velocity.

“He wasn’t throwing 92, 93 (mph) like he normally does,” McCann said. “He was throwing a lot more splits and curves and cutters than the scouting report says.”

Crisp homered twice for the Red Sox, and J.D. Drew went deep for Boston.

But McCann’s homer put Atlanta ahead up 6-1 on the Red Sox, who sat one of their biggest offensive stars. With no designated hitter in the NL park, David Ortiz was limited to a pinch-hitting role.

Crisp had the first multihomer game of his career, the second of which ended the night for Atlanta starter Chuck James (6-6). But the left-hander lasted long enough for the win, giving up five hits and two runs in 5 1-3 innings.

James snapped a two-game skid and won for the first time in four starts.

“That was huge, especially after my last outing,” said James, who gave up six runs in 4 1-3 innings at Minnesota. “I needed to use more of my legs, more of my back. It worked out well.”

Schilling has endured a lingering hangover from his near no-hitter against the Athletics on June 7, which was broken up with two outs in the ninth. In his last two starts, he’s given up 19 hits and 11 earned runs in 9 1-3 innings.

The six runs allowed to the Braves were a season high for Schilling, while the stint of 4 1-3 innings was his shortest since opening day. In that one, he lasted only four innings at Kansas City for his briefest start since 2001.

“I’m not pitching well,” Schilling said. “That’s what chisels away your confidence: when you (stink). That’s what is happening. With this team, I can go out and not throw well and still win games. But I didn’t even give us a chance.”

It was his first loss to the Braves since 2001. He went 4-0 with a 2.32 ERA in his previous seven starts against Atlanta.

James helped himself at the plate with a two-out, run-scoring single in the fourth—silencing thousands of Red Sox fans in the sellout crowd of 47,562.

Scott Thorman added a two-run homer for the Braves.

Notes

Schilling had made 348 starts since his last one without a strikeout. … McCann’s four RBIs were one off his career high. … The Braves used a radical infield shift when Ortiz pinch-hit in the eighth, with 3B Chipper Jones lining up in the shortstop position and everyone else to the right of the second-base bag. In fact, 2B Kelly Johnson was stationed in short right field. As it was, Ortiz popped out near the left-field line, with Jones making a long run for the catch. … Boston dropped to 8-5 in interleague play this season. The Braves improved to 4-6. … It rained hard in the top of the sixth, but tapered off by the bottom half without the game being interrupted.

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