ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Curt Schilling's voice was somber, his words were strong, and his face had a look of disgust as he stood near his locker last night in Tropicana Field.
It was a scene rarely seen in the year-plus he has donned a Red Sox uniform. When he spoke, he called his seven-inning performance in a 6-5 loss to the Devil Rays a "pathetic display of pitching." His "pathetic display" included blowing leads of 4-0 and 5-2 and wasting two tape-measure home runs by David Ortiz.
The Sox ace did not blame his quick return from ankle surgery nor did he say he may not have had enough spring training time.
What he focused on was the subject at hand -- his loss of a game he never should have lost. He had worked hard all week to correct maladies he detected in his last outing in which he threw more than 100 pitches in five innings against the Blue Jays. His pitch count last night was 94 through seven, but his pitch location was another story.
Nothing seemed as bad the 0-2 fastball he served up to Travis Lee with two outs in the sixth and men on first and third and the Sox holding a 5-4 lead.
Schilling had allowed a leadoff single to Alex Sanchez and a fisted single by Jorge Cantu. Schilling then got the count his way against Lee, but the Devil Rays' first baseman smacked a fastball over the plate down the right-field line, scoring Sanchez and Cantu. Schilling got ahead on the count to Lee with fastballs of 93 and 94 miles per hour on the outside part of the plate. He wanted to come up and in with the "waste" pitch, but he didn't waste it quite enough.
"I tried to get [Lee] to swing through a high fastball, but I didn't get it high enough," Schilling said.
It was poor location on a 1-0 pitch to Alex Gonzalez, the No. 9 hitter, who spanked a two-run homer into the left-field bleachers in the fifth to pull the Devil Rays to within 5-4.
The loss by their ace did not panic anyone in the Red Sox locker room.
"I'm not concerned about him at all," said Johnny Damon. "He just didn't have his best stuff and on nights like that we need to score more runs."
That could have happened in the eighth.
Trailing by a run, the Sox seemed content to take their chances against the shaky Tampa Bay relief corps. But the Devil Rays' bullpen was up for the task for a change and the trio of Seth McClung, Trever Miller, and Lance Carter got the job done in the eighth and ninth after Casey Fossum (1-1), who was part of the trade that brought Schilling to Boston, got the win with two strong innings after starter Doug Waechter left after five.
In the eighth, Kevin Millar was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third on Jason Varitek's long fly to the gap in left-center. After Edgar Renteria walked, Ramon Vazquez lined out hard to first base for the second out. "That ball right there was hit pretty hard," lamented manager Terry Francona. "That's a tough out right there."
That's when Tampa manager Lou Piniella yanked McClung for lefthander Miller, who turned Mark Bellhorn around to hit from the right side. Bellhorn was hitting .188 righthanded and Piniella liked the Miller-Bellhorn matchup.
He was right.
Bellhorn seemed fooled by Miller's offspeed offerings and struck out swinging.
Ortiz said he felt bad about the loss, but not so much about his wasted homers.
After hitting a soft liner to third in his first at-bat in the first, Ortiz, in a 7-for-47 funk entering his second at-bat, launched a 432-foot blast to right-center to open the third inning. In the fifth he crushed a 455-foot shot that landed just beneath Wade Boggs's No. 12 jersey in right. They provided the fourth and fifth runs respectively for Schilling, who was battling to keep the lead.
"I wasn't trying to hit a home run," said Ortiz. "Every time I do that I hit the ball to third base."
The Sox scored a run in the first inning for just the fourth time this season when Manny Ramirez doubled in Damon who had singled to lead off against Waechter. The Sox went up, 3-0, when the bottom of the order set the table. No. 7-hitter Renteria singled with one out and moved to third on Vazquez's ground-rule double to right center. After Bellhorn walked to load the bases, Damon delivered a single to shallow left scoring Renteria. Trot Nixon hit a medium fly to right, scoring the second Sox run of the inning.
While Schilling breezed through the first two innings (six up, six down), the third inning threw him for a loop. He surrendered back-to-back singles to the No. 7 and No. 8 hitters Josh Phelps and Toby Hall, and though he was able to get Gonzalez to hit into a double-play, Phelps, who advanced to third on Hall's single, scored on the ground ball.
Schilling has been terrible against the bottom of orders this season. They're hitting 12 for 26 against him with three home runs.
He surrendered a fourth-inning triple to Julio Lugo, who came around to score the second Devil Rays' second run on Aubrey Huff's infield single to shortstop.
After Ortiz's second homer, Schilling had a three-run lead to protect. Something that he's been able to do in his sleep through out his career. But these are trying times for him.
"I made every mistake I could make at the wrong time," Schilling said. "It's a game we should not lose."