More than three months after Schilling's complete-game one-hitter, Oakland mustered only a first-inning solo home run by rookie Daric Barton against the 40-year-old Boston starter over six innings. They fared little better against a collection of Red Sox relievers after he Schilling left, going down in defeat, 7-3.
"[Schilling] hits his spots, you know?" said Barton, the only Oakland batter with two hits. "He made some good pitches. He threw a lot of offspeed for strikes tonight and didn't miss up in the zone. He made pitches when he had to, and he's been doing that for however many years now. That's why he's one of the best."
Not until the sixth inning did the A's advance a runner into scoring position. With one out in that inning, Nick Swisher lofted a high fly ball to deep center. The Red Sox's Jacoby Ellsbury mistimed his jump and crashed into the wall, missing the ball before it rebounded back out into the outfield grass. Swisher coasted into second, advancing later to third before Mark Ellis ended the inning with a popout.
As Athletics starter Chad Gaudin struggled with his control, Schilling scattered just four singles, all in different innings, and walked none. The A's never managed more than a single runner in an inning.
"He just seemed like he had a nice, slow curveball," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "Guys were out [front] a little. He had his cut fastball working. He hits his spots real well, and he didn't get too many balls over the plate."
One costly exception was an 89-mph first-inning fastball down the middle to Barton, a 22-year-old rising star who has shown power in his first stint in the Majors. Barton recognized the pitch and turned, whipping a home run into a seam in the right-field bleachers.
"It was a great feeling, you know?" Barton said. "Running the bases, I was just hoping not to get beaned the next time."
Said Geren, "Daric's been impressing me and my staff and everybody every day he's been up here. Today was just another, you know, day on the list of things that he's done."
"Tonight was just another one. Daric just looks like he knows he can hit."
Gaudin, meanwhile, was his own worst enemy in his second-to-last start of the season for Oakland. He yielded a career-high seven walks in four-plus innings, issuing four of those free passes after cruising into the fifth of a 1-1 tie game. Sixteen of his next 23 pitches were balls; he left after loading the bases and walking in a run with no outs.
|"[Curt Schilling] made pitches when he had to, and he's been doing that for however many years now. That's why he's one of the best."|
|-- Daric Barton|
Were his struggles mechanical?
"No," he said. "Just, I was missing."
Was it the strike zone?
"It doesn't matter what I think," he said. "Guys are going to call what they're going to call. If I did think it was or I didn't, it doesn't matter. Because I can't change what they think, or what they call, or what they do. All I can do is what I can do."
Whatever the reason, the timbre of a game that had been a pitchers' duel shifted. Gaudin allowed just three hits and three walks entering the inning; he finished with a line of three hits, three runs and seven walks in four-plus innings, throwing 93 pitches, only 46 of them strikes.
"They put together good at-bats," said right fielder Jack Cust. "They worked the pitcher, and it's going to be a tough day for any pitcher when they have to face that kind of lineup."
The A's scored two in the top of the ninth off Red Sox reliever Bryan Corey, but it was too little, too late. Boston had added three runs of its own in the eighth, including a two-run homer by David Ortiz off reliever Dan Meyer.
The Red Sox shrunk their American League East magic number to three with a win and an extra-inning Yankees loss. Oakland was only in the crosshairs on a night in which the Fenway Park crowd saw the return of Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis from injury. Boston's ovations for its home stars even "pumped up" Cust, something the A's slugger acknowledged after the game.
"We were in Cleveland," Cust said, "and it was a playoff-type atmosphere. But when you come to Fenway, it's a little bit different. It's a little-added extra."
"We battled them, stayed close, and we were right there until the one inning," Geren said. "And our guys are young, they play the game right, and they're not intimidated by this ballpark or that team over there."
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.