Sox make it easy for Schilling vs. Rays

Sox make it easy for Schilling vs. Rays

BOSTON -- Following two games of riveting drama -- both victories secured in their last at-bat -- the Red Sox gave everyone a chance to exhale on Wednesday night, riding Curt Schilling's red-hot arm and a well-balanced offensive barrage to a 9-1 win over the Devil Rays.

Schilling (4-0, 1.61 ERA) was staked to an 8-0 lead before taking the mound for the fourth inning. This, after the Sox ran Rays starter Doug Waechter from the game with a seven-run pounding in the third. Tampa Bay certainly contributed to Boston's cause in this one, committing four errors.

The 11-4 Red Sox will close out this 10-game homestand Thursday night against the Rays, when they go after their fifth win in a row.

"It's good, it worked out well," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "We put a nice crooked number up early."

The man who set the tone in this one was leadoff hitter Kevin Youkilis. He clubbed a towering homer over the Monster Seats and onto Lansdowne Street in the bottom of the first, putting the Red Sox ahead for good.

Youkilis went 3-for-4 on the night, scored twice and drove in two.

These were the type of games Schilling envisioned from Youkilis when they worked out together at the Athletes Performance Institute in Tempe, Ariz., during the winter.

"This was a real nice night to see our offense get jump-started by Kevin, who is having the year I said he was going to have in January at API," Schilling said. "We took advantage of mistakes and we created mistakes."

Schilling is quite sure that his rosy 2006 forecast for Youkilis will not be a mistake.

"We work out at API together in the wintertime and he was busting his butt every day," Schilling said. "He's a talented athlete. He was my pick. I told him this January that I told anyone that was asking that he was my pick to click this season. I think it's gonna be a very good year for him as long as he stays healthy."

Youkilis will leave the predictions to his teammates. He's just happy to be getting a platform to showcase his skills every night.

"I just feel good at the plate right now," Youkilis said. "I've been working on some things and realizing what I've been doing wrong. For me, it's just good to know that I can play every day at this level. In order to play at this level, you have to make adjustments each day."

And even at the age of 39, Schilling is in constant adjustment mode. Though not quite as sharp as he was in his previous three outings, he was still good enough to post six solid innings (one run, seven strikeouts).

"I did struggle, command-wise, getting ahead," Schilling said. "But I felt great physically and I think that having a real good game plan allowed us to do some things when I felt like my back was against the wall. I take solace in the fact that when we needed to make some pitches early in the game, we made 'em."

The Red Sox gave him Schilling plenty of room to work with their eruption in the third inning.

Youkilis got things started with a one-out single up the middle. Mark Loretta followed by hitting what should have been nothing more than a single. However, center fielder Joey Gathright airmailed the throw to third into the stands, allowing Youkilis to score all the way from first.

After walks to David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, Trot Nixon cranked an RBI single to center and Jason Varitek delivered a sacrifice fly to center. The pressure continued to mount when Mike Lowell hammered an RBI double to right-center, forcing Waechter out of the game.

Reliever Jason Childers was betrayed by his own defensive miscue, dropping a throw from first baseman Travis Lee on an Adam Stern grounder that allowed Lowell to score. Following a walk to Alex Gonzalez, Youkilis produced his second single of the inning, scoring Stern from third.

"It seemed like Waechter didn't have his good slider and good command of his fastball today, so this team came out there and just tried to get a good pitch to hit, and we hit pretty well tonight," said Youkilis.

With such a commanding lead, Schilling wasn't about to let this one get away. He ended his night by being the recipient of a highlight reel catch in center field byt Stern, who raced to the wall to snare a fly ball off the bat of Toby Hall.

Stern rammed into the wall and was knocked down for a few seconds before hopping up with the ball still in his glove.

"You're stunned, you wonder if you actually knocked yourself out. I've never run into a tin wall in the outfield," said Stern, who was informed after the game that he'll be optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Schilling is taking his fast start in stride.

"I feel good, I don't feel like I've put it all together yet," said Schilling. "I feel like I've thrown some good games but I certainly haven't gone out there with everything working. In the same token, I don't know that I have to to win. That's a huge confidence boost. I'm always going to be about command."

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