But Delcarmen, who gave up three straight hits and a run to start the inning, didn't buckle. Instead, he made the A's buckle on his curveball and saw to it that they were tardy on his fastball. The combination of pitches perplexed Milton Bradley, Frank Thomas and Nick Swisher and allowed the Red Sox to first survive and then thrive.
Bradley hit a routine fly to left, setting up dramatic at-bats with possible Hall of Famer Thomas and the up-and-coming Swisher. The former went down flailing at a curve he obviously wasn't expecting, and the latter got blown away on 96-mph heat.
"He's been doing that for a while now," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I know his age  might be young but he's been put in that situation a lot and he's done a very good job. I think he knows that we have enough confidence in him to leave him out there. He bent, but he didn't break."
What the Red Sox did from then on was break it open. They finished the A's off with a six-spot in the eighth that had both patience and pop. With the bases loaded and one out, Trot Nixon worked an RBI walk against lefty reliever Brad Halsey. Then came the thump, as Jason Varitek roped one to the gap in left-center, good for a three-run double that broke the game open.
The Red Sox, by this time, were in full-throttle mode, which in part explained why the bases cleared on that one hit by Varitek.
"I did run through [third-base coach Demarlo Hale's] stop sign. Quite honestly I didn't see him. I was going no matter what," said Nixon. "We had that one big inning. The biggest thing is winning ballgames. Our pitchers made the pitches when they needed to, we got the hits when we needed to and we made the plays defensively."
Earlier in the night, Manny Ramirez (400-foot single, towering solo homer, sac fly) helped pace the offense with a little help from Nixon, who ended his home run drought at 122 at-bats by following Ramirez's blast with a solo shot of his own.
It was No. 7 on the season for Nixon, who matched his jersey number far later than in normal years.
But Nixon, though he was a tad irritated by all the inquiries of late about the missing power, has steadfastly maintained that he's not preoccupied by long balls.
"It's having good swings," Nixon said. "Trying to be more aggressive at the plate. Trying to find a good solid stroke. We've run into a string of left-handers lately, it's important to get my timing back and just be aggressive at the plate."
If Nixon is starting to find it again at the plate, Ramirez is, as the saying goes, locked in. He extended his hitting streak to 11 games, a span which has seen the superstar slugger hit at a .436 clip with four homers and 14 RBIs.
"He's swinging the bat good," said Francona. "When he does the swing the bat, it's not singles when he gets hot. He gets so much production, that's what's really important."
Schilling wasn't at his best, but did enough good things over his six innings (six hits, four runs, three strikeouts) to run his record to 13-3.
"One of the luxuries of pitching for this offense is -- this offense," Schilling said. "Tonight, they were big."
No bigger, however, than Delcarmen, who didn't fret at the possibility that the game was slipping away in that sticky seventh.
"That's huge. It's a one-run game," Schilling said. "He made some big pitches in big situations, but I've come to expect that from him."
As much as Delcarmen has inspired confidence in both himself and his teammates by the way he has pitched of late, it is still not a lot of fun to see the imposing Thomas digging in with the game on the line.
The Big Hurt took such a mighty cut on Delcarmen's curve that the breeze might have traveled to the mound.
"I just got him with a good pitch and a big hitter like that, in my mind, I had to bury that curveball and it broke good," Delcarmen said.
And, for a 24-year-old pitcher, Delcarmen gave a pretty good lesson in damage control.
"The inning could have been a lot worse for me," Delcarmen said. "Nip [pitching coach Al Nipper] called timeout, relaxed me a little bit, I just went out there and trusted myself and made some pitches to get out of it."
That made a winner out of Schilling, who tied teammate Josh Beckett and Toronto's Roy Halladay for the Majors' lead in wins.
"It means that [Beckett's] got to keep his mouth shut for another four days," quipped Schilling. "I've made 22 starts and we're 17-5. I'm proud of that. There's nights like tonight, when it's a lot more offense than it is you, but you take them any way you can get them."