West Coast Heat

The Boston Red Sox bolstered their bullpen by acquiring Eric Gagne before the trade deadline. Their starting rotation is now ready to receive a major boost.

Curt Schilling makes his first start in more than six weeks Monday night when the Red Sox begin a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels in a matchup of division leaders.

Schilling (6-4, 4.20 ERA) has not pitched since June 18. He struggled in his last two outings with Boston, going 0-2 with a 10.61 ERA before being placed on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis.

The 40-year-old, though, was dominant in three rehab starts with Triple-A Pawtucket. Schilling did not allow a run in 15 innings, yielding only eight hits while striking out 18 and not issuing a walk.

"These innings don't count toward trying to win a pennant," Schilling said.

He was outstanding Tuesday against Columbus - the Nationals' top farm team - giving up four hits in seven innings while throwing 60 of 77 pitches for strikes.

"I answered every question I could answer," Schilling said. "I'm healthy, I feel good, I feel strong and I'm ready to go back and help them win games."

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Los Angeles -108 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 8.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 79% of bets for this game have been placed on Boston -107 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Schilling has never lost at Angel Stadium, going 3-0 with a 1.83 ERA in five appearances, including two starts. That doesn't include his victory in Anaheim in the opener of a 2004 division series in which he allowed two earned runs over 6 2-3 innings of a 9-3 win.

He was also spectacular against the Angels at home on April 14, yielding four hits over eight innings in an 8-0 win.

Since the start of 2004, Schilling has kept some of the Angels' top hitters in check. Vladimir Guerrero is 3-for-12 against him in that span, Garret Anderson has gone 2-for-13 and Chone Figgins 2-for-11.

Boston (68-43) has played very well since Schilling's last start, going 24-18 for the third-best mark in the AL. The Red Sox lost just one game in the standings to the New York Yankees in that span and still lead them by seven games in the AL East.

Manny Ramirez homered and David Ortiz reached base safely in all four plate appearances as Boston beat Seattle 9-2 on Sunday. The Red Sox won the final two games of the weekend set after losing their previous nine at Safeco Field.

Los Angeles (64-46) extended its AL West lead over Seattle to 3 1/2 games with a 4-3 win over Oakland on Sunday to salvage a split of a four-game series.

Guerrero went 0-for-2 with three walks, but is 10-for-20 with four homers and nine RBIs in his last five games. This is his first game against Boston since he was hit on the right wrist by a pitch from Josh Beckett in a 7-2 loss on April 16, an injury that forced him to miss two games.

The Red Sox took three games in that series by outscoring the Angels 25-3. A fourth contest was rained out and will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Aug. 17.

Los Angeles' Jered Weaver (7-5, 4.00) has been shaky in his last two outings, going 1-0 with a 9.53 ERA as he gets the start in the series opener. He gave up six runs and 12 hits over six-plus innings in an 8-7, 12-inning loss at Seattle on Wednesday.

The right-hander is facing the Red Sox for the first time after going 0-1 with a 2.84 ERA against them in two starts in 2006.

Each team features one of the top candidates for AL rookie of the year honors. Boston's Dustin Pedroia leads all rookies with a .321 batting average while the Angels' Reggie Willits is second at .302.

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

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