Red Sox stumped by Kazmir

Red Sox stumped by Kazmir

BOSTON -- It was a textbook case of the good and the bad at Fenway Park on Monday night. First, the good. Curt Schilling looked like a man ready to get locked in for the stretch run.

The bad? Not even a near vintage Schilling was enough to beat left-hander Scott Kazmir, who was downright nasty in pitching the Devil Rays to a tense 1-0 victory over the Red Sox.

Could Schilling take the positive out of a solid performance?

"No," said Schilling. "Not now. It's September. It's about winning and losing games and tonight, I got outpitched."

With the Yankees idle, the loss dropped Boston's lead to five games in the American League East. The magic number remains 14 with 18 games to play.

It was the first 1-0 loss at home for the Red Sox since Sept. 2, 2001, when Mike Mussina came one pitch away from a perfect game.

As rare as the score was, Schilling didn't care. He just wanted to win.

"I hate getting outpitched," said Schilling. "That's what I get paid to do. When you get outpitched, it's disappointing. It's frustrating. Again, it's September. When people start talking about magic numbers, that means the season's coming to a close [soon]. I want to continue to get better and win games, and I didn't do it today."

Schilling was crisp and effective throughout this one, giving up five hits and a run over six innings and striking out five.

"[Schilling] pitched extremely well," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "We just did not swing the bats."

Kazmir had his whole arsenal working on a night he held the Sox to five hits over seven innings while striking out 10.

"I don't know that he threw a ball until about 15 minutes into the game," said Schilling. "I knew quickly that he was on. I think this was the best game I have ever seen him pitch against us."

Perhaps it shouldn't be entirely unexpected that the Red Sox were handled in such fashion by Kazmir. Not only does he have some of the best stuff in the league, but the Red Sox played this game with both David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez out of the starting lineup.

For Ortiz, it was just a night of rest for his ailing right knee, though he did pinch-hit and ground out in the ninth. Ramirez was out for a 13th consecutive game with a strained left oblique.

"Facing a guy like that, it's tough for any lineup to hit against him," said Red Sox center fielder Coco Crisp.

The game was decided in the fifth inning. Greg Norton led off with a double to left that bounced off the scoreboard and just out of the reach of the leaping Jacoby Ellsbury, who crashed into the wall for his efforts.

"I think it was just a couple of inches off my glove," said Ellsbury. "It was one of those plays where I thought I could get to it and I knew Coco would be backing me up, so I went for it hard."

Dioner Navarro did his job, sacrificing Norton to third. Execution was the theme of the inning for the Devil Rays. Josh Wilson lifted a sacrifice fly to right to break the scoreless tie.

Ellsbury came away from it with a sore back, but nothing to worry about.

"When you go into the wall, you know you might hit something," said Ellsbury. "That's part of the Green Monster you have to deal with. A little boulder or something got my back. I should be good."

The bottom of the fifth again involved Ellsbury. The speedster reached on a fielder's choice and then took off as Alex Cora belted a liner to center. Unfortunately, the liner didn't drop, instead landing in the glove of B.J. Upton, who fired to first to double off Ellsbury. Not that the rookie did anything wrong.

"He's running on the pitch," said Red Sox manager Francona. "That's the chance you take when you're running. AC usually puts the ball in play and it was actually a great swing. That can happen when you put a runner in motion."

That one run allowed was enough to deprive Schilling of a win.

In the seventh, the Sox had two on with one out. But Kazmir again buckled down, striking out Ellsbury and getting Cora on a grounder to third.

"Obviously, what stands out is his fastball," said Ellsbury. "It's electric. And he did a good job mixing up his pitches tonight."

So did Schilling, who rediscovered an old friend in this one.

"He found his split today and that was very encouraging," said Varitek. "Now he's been able to work on his other pitches. He threw some good changeups. He located his fastball well. That was the key."

Next time, Schilling hopes, that key will lead to a "W" instead of an "L."

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