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RED SOX 12, A'S 2

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Right-on Red Sox find hitting groove in rout of Oakland

For you adjunct professors of baseball, the only A's to be given out in last night's 12-2 Red Sox win over Oakland were for the home team. Start with five RBIs and four runs by Mark Bellhorn; a double and a two-run homer by Manny Ramirez; four hits, including two doubles, by David Ortiz; three hits from leadoff man Johnny Damon; Jason Varitek getting on base five times; and Mr. Moneyball himself, rookie third baseman Kevin Youkilis, reaching four times.

An A also goes to Sox starter Curt Schilling, but getting an F is Oakland righthander Tim Hudson, though he didn't bomb quite as badly as he did here in Game 4 of last fall's Division Series, which he had to leave after warming up for the second inning and incurring a left oblique strain. But he was gone after four innings.

And the Sox get a team A for a season-high 19 hits and 12 runs.

"Going into a game like that -- Schilling against Hudson -- although you hope to be on the good side of that, you don't expect to do that," said Sox manager Terry Francona, who watched the A's up close last season as Ken Macha's bench coach. "We had Huddy's pitch count early and made him work for everything. We

tacked up some runs. We made it difficult for him." It was a significant win for the Sox, who hadn't played a team with a winning record since May 2. In fact, they have played fewer games against winning teams than any other team in the majors. They are now 7-4 against teams with winning records and 21-13 against teams at or below .500.

The only bad news came before the game, when it was announced that Bill Mueller will be lost for at least six weeks after he undergoes arthroscopic knee surgery Friday. But the Sox stayed ahead of the curve with a one-sided win that was essentially over when they scored four runs in the fifth to go ahead, 9-0.

"Nothing is going to derail this team," said Kevin Millar. "We have a team that fights all the way. We have an attitude here that is passed down to everyone. You feel it as soon as you join this team. And with all the guys we have out, that's what you're seeing."

On a night when the game-time temperature was 47 degrees -- 11 degrees colder than it was for the ALDS here in October -- Schilling breezed through five innings before the A's got to him for solo runs in the sixth and seventh.

When he struck out Eric Chavez with the bases loaded to end the seventh, Schilling's night was over. He improved to 6-3 with a 2.82 ERA, after taking a pregame injection for soreness in his right ankle.

"I had some issues with my ankle and we took care of it before the game," said Schilling. "After getting it taken care of, I probably felt as good as I've felt in about six or eight weeks.

"I felt fantastic afterwards. I mean, I felt so good that it was different. I mean, I can feel a difference. But tonight was an eye-opener as far as how I felt.

"Warming up, I felt fantastic. I had good command of my fastball. The medicine kind of wore off after the fifth, and I struggled.

"The last time I was 100 percent, I was probably 12."

Schilling was staked to a 5-0 lead after four innings, and that's always a plus.

Hudson was roughed up for three runs in his last inning, the fourth. Bellhorn accounted for two with a double to left-center, and Ortiz scored him with a double. In one stretch of the inning, 11 of the 13 pitches Hudson threw were balls.

"It was a rather unusual performance for Huddy," said Macha. "I don't think he hit his spots too well."

With Hudson out after four innings, the Sox continued their onslaught against relievers. First out was lefthander Chris Hammond, who was trashed for four runs in the fifth. The crowning blow was a two-run homer to left by Ramirez, his 12th of the season.

Before that, Bellhorn scored from first on a single by Ortiz that glanced off the glove of a leaping Mark McLemore in short right-center. Bellhorn was running on the pitch. In the seventh, Bellhorn, batting from the right side, slapped a fly ball off Pesky's Pole for a two-run homer.

It was a night when the Sox offense got all A's.

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