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Red Sox 3½ behind Yankees

BOSTON (AP) -- Curt Schilling got his 20th win on the eve of
Boston's big series with the New York Yankees. Now he wants much
more.

"In a couple of weeks, hopefully, it will get a lot better,"
he said after becoming the first 20-game winner in the major
leagues with an 11-4 victory Thursday night over the Tampa Bay
Devil Rays.

By that time, he hopes, the Red Sox will have clinched the AL
East title. They trail the Yankees by 3½ games, but the teams have
six meetings left -- three in New York this weekend and three in
Boston beginning next Friday.

"This is a great warmup," Johnny Damon said, referring to
Boston's 24th victory in 29 games. "This is the time to shine. I
think this is the best assembled team in the league and it's time
to show it."

The Red Sox have slashed a deficit of 10½ games on Aug. 15, but
the Yankees are coming off back-to-back shutouts in Kansas City.

"It's not like it's the first time we've played them," Jason
Varitek said. "We have to concentrate each day on each game.
Whatever happens the first day, put it aside."

Boston leads the season series 8-5, but New York has the best
home record in baseball, 50-21.

Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella was too concerned about his own
problems to discuss what advantage Schilling (20-6) and Pedro
Martinez (16-6) might give Boston in the playoffs.

"The Yankees and Red Sox can settle their own affairs,"
Piniella said. "Good luck to whoever comes out on top."

On Thursday, Damon and Kevin Millar each homered and drove in
four runs, and Boston scored at least nine runs for the fifth time
in Schilling's last six starts. The right-hander has won seven
straight starts for the first time in his career. He has 20 wins in
three of the last four years and is 11-1 at home this season.

"He has not let us down one bit" since being traded by Arizona
last November, Boston manager Terry Francona said. "He's been
tremendous and he will continue to be."

Schilling allowed four runs and eight hits in 7 2-3 innings and
hasn't lost since Aug. 9 against Tampa Bay. He struck out six and
walked two after five straight starts without a bases on balls. He
walked Tino Martinez with two outs in the second inning, ending his
streak at 38 innings.

"My goal is innings," Schilling said. "Playing on a team like
this, if you pitch innings, you're going to win a lot of games."

Baseball's highest-scoring team staked Schilling to a 3-0 lead
in the first against Mark Hendrickson (8-15), who has lost his last
seven starts.

"He's been in a rut," said Piniella, who plans to put
Hendrickson in the bullpen.

Bobby Webb, called up Tuesday, allowed two homers in the
seventh, Millar's 17th of the year, a two-run shot, and Damon's
16th, a three-run shot that made it 11-1.

"This is almost like a tryout camp," Piniella said. "The ones
who pitch a little better will get the ball again and the other
guys can sit out there and get some meal money."

The Devil Rays knocked Schilling out in the eighth with an RBI
groundout by Aubrey Huff and a two-run double by Geoff Blum. Tampa
Bay was hitless until Julio Lugo led off the fourth with a double
and scored its first run on Rocco Baldelli's 14th homer in the
sixth.

"They never let up," Baldelli said of the Red Sox. "When you
slip up, they take advantage right away and there's nothing you can
do about it."

Schilling can match his win totals with Arizona in 2001, when he
went 22-6, and 2002, when he was 23-7. He slipped to 8-9 in an
injury-plagued 2003 in which he posted a 2.95 ERA, fifth-best in
the NL.

Boston loaded the bases in the first on a double by Mark
Bellhorn, a walk to Manny Ramirez and a single by David Ortiz. Two
runs scored on Millar's double and another on a groundout by
Varitek.

Hendrickson held Boston hitless the next three innings before
Bellhorn doubled in a run in the fifth. The Red Sox made it 6-1 in
the sixth on RBI singles by Kevin Youkilis off Chad Gaudin and
Damon off Bobby Seay.

Now it's time for the Yankees.

"We have played ourselves into a position where this is a huge
series," Francona said.

Game notes
The Red Sox have 201 homers, the sixth time in franchise
history with more than 200. The club record of 238 was set last
year. ... Tampa Bay is 3-7 on its 13-game road trip, its longest of
the season. ... Boston activated LHP Lenny DiNardo from the 60-day
disabled list and designated INF Tim Hummel for assignment