BOSTON (AP) – Mark Kotsay singled in two runs before Curt Schilling recorded his first out, and Mark Ellis also drove in a pair of runs for Oakland as the Athletics beat the Boston Red Sox 6-2 Thursday night to tighten two different division races.

The A’s moved a half-game behind the Los Angeles Angels, who played Detroit later, in the AL West. East-leading Boston fell to 1 games in front of the New York Yankees, who beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 9-5; the Yankees had not been that close since Aug. 29.

Joe Blanton (10-11) returned to his stingy ways, allowing just two runs on six hits and two walks while striking out three in 6 1-3 innings. Before giving up four runs in his last outing, he had allowed two or fewer in nine consecutive starts.

Schilling (6-8) gave up a double and two singles on his first five pitches, then gave up another run on three straight singles the second inning. In all, he allowed four runs on 11 hits and three walks in 6 2-3 innings.

It was the fewest strikeouts he’s had in a start this year and a step back from what the Red Sox hoped was a breakout outing on Saturday, when he went a season-high eight innings to beat the Yankees. He flailed his arms in anger when he saw manager Terry Francona coming out of the dugout, though the pitcher might have been mad at himself.

Ellis, who had three hits, slapped Schilling’s first pitch of the game to center field. Jason Kendall doubled into the left-field corner on an 0-1 pitch, then Kotsay drove them in on an 0-1 single to center.

Ellis drove in Nick Swisher in the second to make it 3-0.

Johnny Damon, who had been out three games with a sore shoulder, doubled and scored on David Ortiz’s sacrifice fly in the sixth to make it 3-1. Manny Ramirez hit a hard liner that was kept in play by the Green Monster and resulted in just a single.

After a wild pitch, Blanton walked Trot Nixon but then struck out Jason Varitek to end the inning. Boston put runners on second and third with one out in the seventh before Ricardo Rincon came in to give up Damon’s RBI groundout.

Justin Duchscherer got Edgar Renteria on a grounder to first to end the inning.

Oakland had lost three of four and nine of 14. But on the road the A’s are 32-12 since June 10.

Notes: The start of the game was delayed 43 minutes. … The Red Sox added a Hurricane Katrina relief message to the Green Monster, giving the number for the Red Cross (1-800-HELP-NOW). … Former Red Sox OF Jay Payton was booed by the fans at each at-bat. Little-used in Boston, Payton argued with Francona to speed his way out of town. … The Red Sox purchased the contract of OF Adam Hyzdu from Triple-A Pawtucket and unconditionally released LHP Matt Perisho. … Renteria returned to the lineup after getting a day off. He has one hit in his last 18 at-bats.

AP-ES-09-15-05 2253EDT


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