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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

Decision for Schilling? No. Lots going on? Yes

The SS Red Sox keeps rolling on a (Charles) river. With any luck the Sox soon will overtake the Milwaukee Brewers juggernaut and own the best record in baseball. To use a time-tested analogy, the Sox are making the American League East look like Secretariat in the Belmont.

And it's only May 13.

The Sox have the best starting pitching this side of the 1971 Orioles. The offense isn't even in gear yet, but the club is 24-11 and has a seven-game lead. Hideki Okajima is worth every bit of that $51 million posting fee (whoops, that was the other guy), Alex Cora is the ever-perfect, .432-hitting guy off the bench, Kevin Youkilis is the new Steve Garvey, and Terry Francona reportedly is being fitted for a gray hoodie.

There's an almost boring precision to all this goodness. It's enough to dim the ratings of sports talk radio.

Fortunately, Curt Schilling still pitches for the Red Sox and Schill is never boring. In fact, Schill may be the only man who can be story-worthy on a day when he gets a no-decision in a four-hour, 13-4 victory over what's left of the once-great Orioles.

"This is a phenomenal 25-man roster of guys that know how to win," Schilling said.

The big lug had an interesting week. Last Sunday, he beat the Twins with 6 2/3 innings of typically professional work. After that game, he was asked about the Yankees' acquisition of Roger Clemens and he delivered a lengthy response in which he said it would have been nice to have Clemens and acknowledged the Rocket's greatness, but he could not resist adding, "We don't need him."

A day later, he went on his weekly radio show and ripped into Barry Bonds. The diatribe went national and Francona called Schill into his office and told the big guy to tone it down a little. A chagrined Schilling went back to the keyboard and blogged an apology to Barry.

It was a stunning reversal. Patriots defensive backs don't do this much backpedaling during two-a-days in August. It was Curt Schilling as Larry Summers. The next day in Toronto, fireballer Jonathan Papelbon characterized Schilling's anti-Bonds riff as "unprofessional" -- a somewhat stunning rebuke from the kid closer.

All this was followed by yesterday's uneven performance by Schilling. The big guy lasted only 5 1/3 innings, surrendering four runs on nine hits and a pair of walks. Worse, he coughed up three runs in the sixth after the Sox had staked him to a 4-1 lead in the fifth. It was his briefest outing since his Opening Day dog in Kansas City. Very unCurtlike.

One thing we know is that none of the 11 base runners had anything to do with Schill's hurly-burly week. This is a 40-year-old man who has been in every situation on a baseball diamond, and a couple of nasty postings aren't going to have any impact on his pitching. He is a two-time World Series winner, a decorated pitcher who imposed his own timetable during spring contract negotiations, then was told he was going to have to prove himself again to earn his next contract.

Schilling lives to deliver in such situations. Insults and slights, real and imagined, feed and sustain him. That's why yesterday's wacky sixth was so remarkable.

He loaded the bases on three pitches. Three consecutive singles. This sometimes happens when you are a strike machine. Schilling has the best strikeout-walk ratio (4.37-1) among all major league pitchers since 1900. Think about that. Better than Tom Seaver. Better than Warren Spahn. Better than Mr. "We Don't Need Him."

With the sacks full, Schilling fanned Melvin Mora on a 93-mile-per-hour heater and gave up an RBI single to Jay Gibbons. Then came trouble. Schilling narrowly missed on a 2-and-2 pitch to Jay Payton. Plate ump Chris Guccione said the pitch was outside. Schilling yelled, "That's not outside." The next pitch, Schilling's last, was way outside and Francona came out to get his angry righty.

Schilling was careful not to rip Guccione. There have been enough apologies this week.

"He missed a couple," offered the righty. "But he's a good umpire, a consistent umpire. It's a huge play and I made the pitch, but it happens."

Javier Lopez came on, and Corey Patterson's ground out tied the game and took away Schilling's chance for a win.

"My command was inconsistent," he said. "I did not execute."

It didn't matter, of course. The Orioles threw a whopping 209 pitches and the Sox made a joke of things as the interminable contest lurched toward dinnertime.

If you are a Sox fan, it's all good at this hour. You just wish it was October.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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