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Rangers got off to a running start

Texas steals nine off Wakefield

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / April 21, 2010

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That the Red Sox came back to beat the Texas Rangers, 7-6, last night did not do much to blunt the embarrassment of allowing nine stolen bases, the most in the major leagues in eight years.

All nine came in the first five innings when Tim Wakefield was pitching. Vladimir Guerrero, who stole two bases all of last season, swiped second and third in the third inning.

“Pretty concerned,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “That’s a hard way to win, we understand that. We’re very aware of that.’’

When it came time to assign blame, both Wakefield and catcher Victor Martinez raised their hands.

“I can only speak for myself. Most of the stolen bases tonight came off of me,’’ Wakefield said. “I just really was concentrating on throwing strikes. I wasn’t keeping a very close eye on the running game, and obviously it showed. They stole nine bases off me in the first six innings. It’s something I’m not happy about, but something I will continue to work on.’’

Opponents are 24 of 25 against Martinez.

“I wish I could be perfect but I’m doing the best I can,’’ the catcher said. “It’s me. I’m the one who has to catch the ball and get it out there. I’m not doing it right now. But it’s a long season and I still have a lot of work to do. Like I always do, I’m never going to give up.’’

The nine steals were a Rangers record. The old mark came last Aug. 15 against the Red Sox in a game Jason Varitek was catching. The steals were also a record for one team at Fenway Park and the most for a team in the majors since the Marlins stole 10 against the Padres May 18, 2000.

The Red Sox have allowed opponents to steal 31 bases in 32 attempts this season, including 29 straight. The only runner to get caught was Robinson Cano of the Yankees April 7.

No, he did not trip and fall on his way to second.

“We’re working at it,’’ general manager Theo Epstein said before the game. “Some have speculated that we don’t care about it, that we just always want to make the pitch and don’t worry about the base runner. That’s not true. I almost wish that were true.

“We care about it. We definitely recognize the importance of stopping the running game and thus far we haven’t been able to do it. It was an emphasis throughout spring training and so far we haven’t gotten the results . . . We’re giving the opposition an unnecessary advantage right now in that area.’’

To be sure, much of the problem last night came because Wakefield’s knuckleball is perhaps the easiest pitch to run on.

But the season-wide problem speaks to Boston’s inability to hold runners as a pitching staff and the throwing problems experienced by Martinez and Varitek, who is 0 for 8 throwing out runners.

“There are some times they really give me a chance to throw guys out. Personally, I’ll take it. I’m the one who’s in charge behind the plate.’’ Martinez said.

“It bothers me a lot. You’re going to see for sure that I’m not giving up. I’m working a lot and improving. It’s going to get better, I promise you. It’s going to get better. I keep working every day. I’ve done it before.’’

The base running woes could factor in the upcoming decision whether to keep Wakefield in the rotation. The Red Sox list Wakefield as their starter for Saturday’s game against Baltimore. But Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled to make his third injury rehabilitation start for Triple A Pawtucket tonight in Allentown, Pa., and will then be moved into the Red Sox rotation.

Wakefield is 0-1 with a 6.38 ERA through three starts. He pitched well against Kansas City in his first start of the season but has since allowed 11 earned runs on 17 hits and six walks over 11 1/3 innings.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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