Chilling in Charm City

Chilling in Charm City

BALTIMORE -- Frigid air filled Camden Yards on Saturday afternoon, with one exception. It came in the form of the heat that emanated from Curt Schilling's right arm.

With two on and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, a determined Schilling had no interest in losing his grip on the slightest of leads. So he reached back on pitch No. 114 -- his last of the day -- and blew a 96 mph fastball past Jeff Conine for strike three. He pumped his fist, then pounded it into his glove a couple of times with a look of satisfaction.

That was the end of Schilling's outing, and the latest sign that he's primed for a bounce-back year. Behind Schilling (seven innings, three hits, one run, four strikeouts), the Red Sox edged out the Orioles, 2-1, and will go for a three-game sweep behind Tim Wakefield on Sunday.

Through two starts, Schilling is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA.

"I'd like to think before last year I felt like this a lot," said Schilling. "Consistency, that's the thing I'm looking for and that's the thing I feel very good about. I told you when I left Spring Training, I had to go out and do it in games that mattered -- and the stuff has been there. I felt in the seventh inning that velocity-wise, when I had to have it, I had it. That's a big boost."

And if the Orioles thought things would come easier against the Boston bullpen, they got a rude awakening. Mike Timlin worked around one hit in the eighth, then Jonathan Papelbon slammed the door with his second save in the last three days. Once again, the rookie was untouched, ending the game with a 89 mph splitter to strike out former teammate Kevin Millar.

Just as Papelbon preserved a 2-1 gem for Beckett on Wednesday, he did precisely the same for Schilling.

"When your starters go seven innings and they pitch their heart out and battle all day, for you to preserve that for them, it's special," said Papelbon. "Ultimately, those wins and losses go beside their name. They're out there fighting, so it's good to give it back to them."

These were exactly the type of games the Red Sox did not win last year, going 3-22 when they scored less than three runs. In the early portion of this season, the 4-1 Sox are 2-0 in such occasions.

On Saturday, after a 90-minute rain delay, Schilling provided instant momentum.

"When Schilling is healthy, you've got one of the best pitchers in the game," said Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "He's throwing the ball good and has that swagger, and that's what you need from Schill."

Another ingredient not to be overlooked in this one was defense. With two on and two outs in the bottom of the second, left fielder Manny Ramirez helped save a run for Schilling. He raced to the wall in left-center to rob Conine of extra bases.

"A great catch," manager Terry Francona said. "He tracked that ball pretty well. I didn't think he was going to get there. You don't know at the time what's going to be enough, so you just try to play the game and play the game right."

Orioles left-hander Bruce Chen stayed right with Schilling early. With two outs and nobody on in the fourth, the Red Sox started an impromptu rally. Jason Varitek roped a double to center and Mike Lowell followed with a walk. That gave Youkilis a chance to break the scoreless tie, and he did just that, smashing an RBI single to left.

"I got to 2-2 and he threw me that slider down in the dirt," said Youkilis. "I didn't think he wanted bases loaded with Wily Mo [Pena] up. I was looking fastball and pounded it into left."

Two innings later, the Red Sox pestered Chen again. David Ortiz started it with a walk and Ramirez belted a single off the wall in right to set up runners at the corners with nobody out.

That prompted the Orioles to go to the bullpen, as Sendy Rleal came on for Chen. Varitek came up with another big double, this one a screamer into the gap in right-center to score Ortiz.

The Orioles got a run back quickly when Luis Matos led off the sixth by tagging a solo shot to center off a hanging split from Schilling. It was just the second hit of the day for the Birds.

From there, the Red Sox rode their arms to the finish.

And Papelbon has been quite a finisher on this road trip.

"He's locating, and that's huge. When you can locate a 95 mph fastball, you can do a lot of things," said Schilling, who noted the bullpen will get even stronger when Keith Foulke returns to form.

The rotation, with Schilling cemented again in the top spot, isn't looking too shabby either.

"When your starter gives you seven, it certainly makes your options a lot better," said Francona. "You don't have to ask guys to do more than they're supposed to. Your chances to win are certainly a lot better."

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.