"Every team that's done what the A's have done in August has been a completely different team," Zito said. "More than anything, we're a relaxed bunch of guys and we don't put pressure on ourselves. The result is pretty good."
Zito outpitched Curt Schilling on a day the Boston ace became the 14th pitcher with 3,000 career strikeouts, Mark Ellis and Bobby Kielty each hit solo home runs and the Oakland Athletics beat the Red Sox 7-2 Wednesday to complete a three-game sweep.
Manager Terry Francona and the healthy members of the Red Sox finally finished their miserable 2-7 road trip and left the Bay Area to meet the rest of Boston's beat-up lineup in Beantown.
"They'll be welcoming us with open arms," Francona joked of the fans at Fenway Park.
Jason Kendall doubled among his three hits, drove in a run, and scored twice for the A's, who won their season-best ninth straight game at home and 15th in 19 overall. Nick Swisher had an RBI double and Frank Thomas, Mark Kotsay and Jay Payton all singled in runs.
Oakland began the day with a 7½-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West. The A's have not held a bigger advantage in the division race since being 8½ games up on Sept. 25, 1992.
"We started a little bit earlier this year," Ellis said of the A's run.
Zito (15-8) pitched 6 1/3 strong innings to win his third straight start, receiving a standing ovation when he left after striking out Alex Cora on his 112th pitch.
The lefty, likely in his final season for the A's, escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth. He allowed eight hits and one run, struck out eight and walked two.
Schilling (14-7) became the first pitcher to reach 3,000 strikeouts since Greg Maddux fanned San Francisco's Omar Vizquel for No. 3,000 on July 26, 2005. But Schilling lost his third straight decision and hasn't won in five starts since beating Tampa Bay on Aug. 4.
"It's very bittersweet," Schilling said. "When 14 people in the history of the game have done it, that makes me proud to have achieved it. But going through what we're going through and doing what I did today kind of sucks a lot of the enjoyment out of it -- most of it, if not all of it."
The 39-year-old Schilling allowed a leadoff double to Kendall before getting Swisher swinging for the milestone strikeout. His accomplishment was announced and Schilling received a lengthy ovation. He stepped off the mound and tipped his hat, his wife Shonda and children watching from nearby in the stands.
He gave way to Mike Timlin after Kendall's RBI single in the sixth gave the Athletics a 5-1 lead. The right-hander struck out four over 5 1/3 innings, allowed 11 hits and six runs and walked one in a 108-pitch performance.
Kielty connected for his seventh homer with two outs in the second to tie the game after Eric Hinske gave the Red Sox the lead in the top half of the inning on an RBI single. Ellis hit his 10th home run leading off the third and fell a single short of the cycle. He tripled in the sixth and doubled to start the eighth.
Dustin Pedroia added an RBI groundout in the seventh for the Red Sox, who lost their sixth straight game and 12th in 14. They are 8 games behind the first-place New York Yankees in the AL East, Boston's worst division deficit since being down 8½ games on Aug. 19, 2004.
Before the game, Francona announced that slugger David Ortiz would remain at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston until Thursday as a precaution and for further tests on his heart.
Ortiz felt heart palpitations earlier this month and again before Monday night's game in Oakland, where he was a late scratch from the lineup. He then returned to Boston for evaluation.
The Red Sox had one bench player available -- Javy Lopez -- for Wednesday's game after scratching center fielder Coco Crisp less than an hour before the first pitch with an injured left shoulder.
Crisp was hurt making a diving catch to rob Payton of a hit in the fourth inning of Tuesday night's 2-1 loss to the A's.
- Schilling's Boston teammate, Mike Lowell, was Randy Johnson's 3,000th strikeout victim on Sept. 10, 2000.
- The A's played without RF Milton Bradley, who fouled a ball off his right ankle Tuesday night and also had a sore side muscle.
- Swisher has struck out six times against Schilling, who has fanned 860 different batters in his 19-year big league career.