"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.
|The Oakland fans do cheer for Curt Schilling, but make no mistake, Barry Zito is the story of the game. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Boston Red Sox|
|Kevin Youkilis, LF||4||0||1||0||1||1||0||.288|
|Alex Cora, SS||5||0||0||0||0||2||4||.257|
|Mark Loretta, DH||5||0||1||0||0||1||1||.299|
|Mike Lowell, 3B||4||1||1||0||0||0||3||.288|
|Gabe Kapler, CF||4||1||2||0||0||1||1||.238|
|Doug Mirabelli, C||4||0||1||0||0||1||3||.188|
|Eric Hinske, RF||3||0||2||1||1||1||0||.258|
|Dustin Pedroia, 2B||4||0||1||1||0||0||5||.138|
|Carlos Pena, 1B||4||0||1||0||0||1||4||.200|
|2B - Gabe Kapler (6, Zito), Eric Hinske (13, Halsey), Dustin Pedroia (1, Zito)|
|RBI - Eric Hinske (31), Dustin Pedroia (1)|
|SB - Eric Hinske (2, 2nd base off Zito/Kendall)|
|Team LOB - 10|
|Outfield Assists - Eric Hinske 1|
|Boston Red Sox|
|Curt Schilling (L,14-7)||5.1||11||6||6||1||4||2||4.13|
|WP - Jonathan Papelbon (2)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Curt Schilling 108-72, Mike Timlin 11-6, Mike Burns 8-7, Jonathan Papelbon 16-11|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Curt Schilling 4-8, Mike Burns 1-1, Jonathan Papelbon 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Curt Schilling 28, Mike Timlin 2, Mike Burns 5, Jonathan Papelbon 4|
|Jason Kendall, C||5||2||3||1||0||1||2||.294|
|Nick Swisher, 1B||5||0||1||1||0||3||3||.248|
|Mark Kotsay, CF||5||0||2||1||0||0||3||.268|
|Frank Thomas, DH||4||0||2||1||0||1||1||.270|
|Eric Chavez, 3B||4||1||1||0||0||0||2||.240|
|Antonio Perez, 3B||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.091|
|Jay Payton, RF||3||0||1||1||1||0||1||.295|
|Bobby Kielty, LF||4||1||1||1||0||2||5||.282|
|Marco Scutaro, SS||4||1||1||0||0||1||1||.246|
|Mark Ellis, 2B||4||2||3||1||0||0||1||.235|
|2B - Jason Kendall (20, Schilling), Nick Swisher (18, Schilling), Eric Chavez (20, Burns), Mark Ellis (16, Papelbon)|
|3B - Mark Ellis (1, Schilling)|
|HR - Bobby Kielty (7, Schilling), Mark Ellis (10, Schilling)|
|RBI - Jason Kendall (37), Nick Swisher (78), Mark Kotsay (49), Frank Thomas (79), Jay Payton (52), Bobby Kielty (30), Mark Ellis (41)|
|2-OUT RBI - Nick Swisher (37), Mark Kotsay (18), Bobby Kielty (10)|
|SB - Jason Kendall (9, 2nd base off Timlin/Mirabelli)|
|Team LOB - 8|
|Barry Zito (W,15-8)||6.1||8||1||1||2||8||0||3.57|
|Pitches-Strikes - Barry Zito 87-55, Kiko Calero 10-6, Brad Halsey 11-8, Chad Gaudin 5-5|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Barry Zito 2-9, Kiko Calero 1-1, Brad Halsey 2-1|
|Batters Faced - Barry Zito 29, Kiko Calero 2, Brad Halsey 5, Chad Gaudin 3|
|Attendance - 31073|
|Game Time - 2:43|
|Temperature - 74|
|Umpires - Home - Doug Eddings, First Base - Dana DeMuth, Second Base - Jim Joyce, Third Base - Paul Schrieber|