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TIGERS 7, RED SOX 6

Tigers stun Sox with three in 9th

DETROIT -- Curt Schilling loves to talk and loves to pitch, and yet, last night, when combining his two favorite pastimes, the 38-year-old righthander was barely audible. Standing before his locker, his eyes on the clubhouse floor, he recounted the ninth inning in little more than a whisper, looking like a man defeated not only by the Tigers on the field, 7-6, but by the proceedings of the last four days.

''You can't cost your team games while learning to do the job," said Schilling, who has been closing for a month now. ''There's no excuse for that. This is a results-oriented business. Tonight was a horrible night for me."

Schilling entered with two outs in the eighth, fanned the only batter he faced that inning, and went back to the mound in the ninth with a two-run lead in hand. His 10th save in 11 opportunities would have sealed the Sox' seventh consecutive win and 15th in 17 games. Instead, he allowed three runs on four hits and a walk, the last act of the night a John McDonald two-out RBI single down the line in left that set into motion the 30,426 fans at Comerica Park.

In his last three outings -- Friday and Saturday vs. Chicago, and last night against Detroit -- Schilling has pitched a cumulative 3 1/3 innings, allowing seven runs on eight hits. He's now appeared in 19 games in 32 days since coming off the disabled list, and allowed 13 runs in 21 1/3 innings. That's a 5.48 ERA, with nine saves in 11 chances and a 3-3 record as a reliever.

Schilling, clearly, is a man searching. He shook off Jason Varitek to begin the ninth, and Placido Polanco singled to right.

''In hindsight, it was probably a real bad decision on my end," Schilling said. ''You start the inning off by allowing the leadoff man on . . ."

Schilling popped up the next batter (Chris Shelton) before leaving a 1-and-1 splitter up to Dmitri Young that Young hit to the base of the wall in left-center. The Tigers won't identify the dimensions of the park out there, but it's rumored locally to be 435 feet. Young, who is listed at 245 pounds, crashed into third with an RBI triple, pulling Detroit within 6-5.

Schilling then fell behind Magglio Ordonez, 1-and-0, left a fastball over the plate, and Ordonez lined it to left, scoring pinch runner Nook Logan to tie the game. Unnerved, Schilling walked Craig Monroe on four pitches, then collected himself to fan Brandon Inge with a splitter.

That brought up McDonald, whom displeased Tigers manager Alan Trammell had inserted for Omar Infante in the top of the ninth. Infante didn't run out a ball he hit down the third base line an inning earlier; the ball was headed foul but bounced fair, allowing Bill Mueller to make the play at first. So, it was McDonald, in his first at-bat of the game, who scored Ordonez with a game-winning single just inside the line in left.

The ball bounced by a helpless Manny Ramirez, sending the Sox to a loss in the first game of a season-long 10-game road trip.

''I'm compounding mistakes by making more mistakes," said Schilling, who threw 27 pitches. ''As hard as Bronson [Arroyo] battled and as hard as we worked tonight to put ourselves in a position to win this game, you just can't let that happen."

Arroyo, who pitched 6 1/3 no-hit innings his last time here, was touched for 10 hits in six innings last night. Still, he didn't walk anyone and limited the damage to three runs, leaving in position to win.

Manager Terry Francona yesterday tinkered with his lineup against righthanded starter Sean Douglass, starting two lefthanded hitters -- first baseman Roberto Petagine and second baseman Alex Cora -- in place of Kevin Millar and Tony Graffanino.

Douglass had limited righties to a .150 average (12 for 80) but had been raked by lefties at a .318 clip (28 for 88). Douglass lasted only four innings plus three batters. Four lefthanded hitters knocked in the four runs that scored while he was in the game, and another run would be charged to him.

Cora (.313 in his last dozen games) knocked in three of those runs, with a two-run homer in the second and a fielder's choice in the fourth. Mueller contributed a sacrifice fly in the second.

David Ortiz supplied the two other Boston runs, with an RBI double in the fifth and a solo homer to right-center in the seventh off righthander Roman Colon that elevated the Sox' lead to 6-3.

Ortiz now has 101 RBIs, his third straight 100-RBI season.

Varitek, in the bottom of the fifth, provided the defensive highlight of the night to help preserve a 5-3 lead. Monroe, with one out and the bases loaded, popped foul a 1-and-1 pitch. The ball looked likely to land in the Sox dugout but Varitek reached over the railing, about as far as he could, and caught the ball with the end of his glove. Arroyo then escaped the jam by getting Inge to fly out to Ramirez in left.

Of the Varitek play, Francona said, ''I don't know how he reaches that ball. That's a great player, great presence."

Great player, great presence. Two things said about Schilling much in the past, and at times this season.

''He's trying to find it," said Johnny Damon, who returned to the lineup after missing two games with a strained hamstring and went 0 for 4 with a walk to snap his 15-game hitting streak. ''He's not the Curt Schilling that ended last season. He needs some work. He knows it."

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