Ace high for Sox


BOSTON (AP) – Curt Schilling opened a season with four straight winning starts for the first time in his career.

Schilling breezed through six innings, striking out seven to lead the Boston Red Sox over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 9-1 Wednesday night.

Backed by Boston’s season-high, seven-run third inning, Schilling (4-0) allowing one run and six hits in lowering his ERA from 1.64 to 1.61. He tied Jim Bunning for 15th on the strikeouts list at 2,855 when he fanned Jonny Gomes in the sixth.

Schilling started with four wins twice before in his career, but with no-decisions mixed in each time. He was 4-0 with Philadelphia in 1995 and 5-0 with Arizona in 2001.

Kevin Youkilis had a solo homer and two singles, and Mark Loretta, Trot Nixon and Mike Lowell each had two hits for the Red Sox, who won for the 10th time in 13 games.

Doug Waechter (0-1) gave up seven runs – six earned – five hits and three walks in 2 2-3 innings. Tampa Bay, which has lost eight straight at Fenway Park, made a season-high four errors.

Youkilis homered on Waechter’s fourth pitch, and Boston blew open the game in the third.

Center fielder Joey Gathright made a run-scoring throwing error, Nixon hit an RBI single, Jason Varitek had a sacrifice fly and Lowell hit a two-run double. Another run scored when reliever Jason Childers dropped first baseman Travis Lee’s throw while covering the base on Adam Stern’s grounder.

Devil Rays left fielder Ty Wigginton made errors on consecutive plays in the fifth; the second came when he dropped Alex Gonzalez’s sacrifice fly that made it 9-1. The other was when he bobbled Lowell’s single.

Gathright had an RBI single for the Devil Rays in the fifth.

Notes: Manny Ramirez is in the midst of his longest homerless drought to open a season, currently 51 at-bats. Last year, was his previous longest, with Ramirez connecting in his 39th. … Tampa Bay LF Carl Crawford was scratched from the starting lineup about 21/2 hours before the game. He injured his right shoulder diving for a ball in Tuesday’s loss. … Youkilis had the first leadoff homer for Boston since Johnny Damon last Aug. 25. … The Devil Rays had just six errors on the season coming in.

AP-ES-04-19-06 2207EDT