BOSTON -- Curt Schilling heard the talk that the end of his career might be near. Now, he's off to his best start ever.
Schilling opened a season with four straight winning starts for the first time, breezing through six innings and striking out seven to lead the Boston Red Sox over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 9-1 Wednesday night.
"That's part of the rush of being in the big leagues, people write you off," he said.
Backed by Boston's season-high, seven-run third inning, Schilling (4-0) allowing one run and six hits in lowering his ERA from 1.64 to 1.61. He tied Jim Bunning for 15th on the strikeouts list at 2,855 when he fanned Jonny Gomes in the sixth, but didn't feel like it was one of his better outings.
"I feel good. I feel like I'm past all the tough times," he said. "I don't feel like I've gone out there with everything working. It's all about consistency."
Schilling started with four wins twice before in his career, but with no-decisions mixed in each time. He was 4-0 with Philadelphia in 1995 and 5-0 with Arizona in 2001.
Manager Terry Francona thinks Schilling's surgically repaired right ankle, operated on after he helped the Red Sox win the 2004 World Series, is fine and Schilling is back to his prior form.
"He's always been consistent," Francona said. "You don't last this long and be as good as he has without being consistent."
Doug Waechter (0-1) gave up seven runs -- six earned -- five hits and three walks in 2 2/3 innings. Tampa Bay, which has lost eight straight at Fenway Park, made a season-high four errors.
Youkilis homered on Waechter's fourth pitch, and Boston blew open the game in the third.
Center fielder Joey Gathright made a run-scoring throwing error, Nixon hit an RBI single, Jason Varitek had a sacrifice fly and Lowell hit a two-run double. Another run scored when reliever Jason Childers dropped first baseman Travis Lee's throw while covering the base on Adam Stern's grounder.
"In the third inning it kind of snowballed on me," Waechter said.
That was certainly more than enough offense for Schilling.
"He has probably been a little bit sharper this year," Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "But his velocity was there when he needed it, his breaking pitches were there when he needed them."
Schilling, 8-8 in 11 starts last season, knew some thought the 39-year-old was getting too old to dominate.
"I love stuff like that," he said. "Unfortunately, that's how people go through other peoples' lives. Before the season, I read what was written."
Devil Rays left fielder Ty Wigginton made errors on consecutive plays in the fifth; the second came when he dropped Alex Gonzalez's sacrifice fly that made it 9-1. The other was when he bobbled Lowell's single.
Gathright had an RBI single for the Devil Rays in the fifth.
|Curt Schilling's four straight victories to open the season is a first in his career. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Tampa Bay Devil Rays|
|Joey Gathright, CF||4||0||2||1||0||2||1||.222|
|Jorge Cantu, 2B||3||0||1||0||1||1||1||.256|
|Travis Lee, 1B||4||0||1||0||0||3||4||.231|
|Jonny Gomes, DH||4||0||0||0||0||3||1||.292|
|Sean Burroughs, 3B||4||0||0||0||0||1||0||.000|
|Ty Wigginton, LF||4||0||1||0||0||2||0||.286|
|Toby Hall, C||4||1||1||0||0||0||1||.341|
|Damon Hollins, RF||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||.314|
|Tomas Perez, SS||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||.303|
|Nick Green, SS||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.111|
|2B - Joey Gathright (2, Schilling), Travis Lee (3, Schilling), Toby Hall (5, Schilling), Damon Hollins (4, Seanez)|
|RBI - Joey Gathright (2)|
|2-OUT RBI - Joey Gathright (1)|
|Team LOB - 7|
|DP - Cantu-Green-Lee|
|E - Jason Childers (1, Missed catch), Joey Gathright (1, Wild throw), Ty Wigginton 2 (3, Misplayed batted ball)|
|Tampa Bay Devil Rays|
|Doug Waechter (L,0-1)||2.2||5||7||6||3||2||1||7.30|
|IBB - Ortiz by Doug Waechter|
|WP - Jason Childers (1)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Doug Waechter 55-30, Jason Childers 68-41, Ruddy Lugo 22-13, Dan Miceli 11-7|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Doug Waechter 1-5, Jason Childers 2-4, Ruddy Lugo 1-4, Dan Miceli 1-2|
|Batters Faced - Doug Waechter 16, Jason Childers 14, Ruddy Lugo 6, Dan Miceli 4|
|Boston Red Sox|
|Kevin Youkilis, 1B||4||2||3||2||0||1||1||.354|
|J.T. Snow, 1B||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.167|
|Mark Loretta, 2B||5||1||2||0||0||0||2||.267|
|Alex Cora, 2B||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.167|
|David Ortiz, DH||3||1||0||0||2||2||2||.316|
|Manny Ramirez, LF||1||1||0||0||3||1||0||.255|
|Dustan Mohr, PR-LF||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.200|
|Trot Nixon, RF||4||1||2||1||0||0||2||.379|
|Jason Varitek, C||3||0||0||1||0||0||1||.227|
|Mike Lowell, 3B||4||2||2||2||0||0||0||.294|
|Adam Stern, CF||4||1||0||0||0||0||1||.150|
|Alex Gonzalez, SS||2||0||0||1||1||1||0||.196|
|2B - Mike Lowell (8, Waechter)|
|HR - Kevin Youkilis (1, Waechter)|
|SF - Jason Varitek (1), Alex Gonzalez (1)|
|RBI - Kevin Youkilis 2 (10), Trot Nixon (8), Jason Varitek (6), Mike Lowell 2 (6), Alex Gonzalez (4)|
|2-OUT RBI - Kevin Youkilis (6), Mike Lowell 2 (2)|
|Team LOB - 7|
|Boston Red Sox|
|Curt Schilling (W,4-0)||6||6||1||1||1||7||0||1.61|
|WP - Curt Schilling (1)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Curt Schilling 108-67, Rudy Seanez 17-12, Julian Tavarez 13-9, Keith Foulke 14-8|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Curt Schilling 6-5|
|Batters Faced - Curt Schilling 25, Rudy Seanez 4, Julian Tavarez 3, Keith Foulke 3|
|Attendance - 36454|
|Game Time - 2:55|
|Temperature - 71|
|Umpires - Home - Dan Iassogna, First Base - James Hoye, Second Base - Ron Kulpa, Third Base - Dale Scott|