Toronto’s Marcum outduels Wakefield
The pitcher who was supposed to start yesterday was relegated to spectator, his ineffectiveness causing him to be pushed back, his back causing him to be skipped entirely. So instead of Josh Beckett — and his 7.46 ERA — the Red Sox watched Tim Wakefield take the mound and battle Toronto’s Shaun Marcum efficiently and effectively for seven innings.
But as well as Wakefield pitched, he failed to get the win the Sox needed to move ahead of the Blue Jays into third place in the American League East — mostly because the offense failed to produce. Marcum located and finessed his way around the order, allowing just two hits and a walk over seven innings.
And Wakefield wasn’t far behind. The substitute starter lasted seven innings as well, the difference coming in the consecutive doubles he gave up in the fifth and the two-run homer he gave up in the seventh, Travis Snider delivering the big blow in each case. Those were enough for the Blue Jays to salvage the final game of the three-game series, 3-2, before a half-full Fenway Park, even with an announced attendance of 37,198.
“I thought I pitched pretty well, made one mistake to Snider, and it cost us the game,’’ Wakefield said.
Even though the Sox couldn’t move up in the standings and even though they ended their 10-game homestand with a loss, there was still success in this stretch. The Sox went 7-3, mostly keeping pace in the division, despite dropping two of three to the Yankees.
And they came close to taking this one, getting two runs in the ninth before running out of outs. But it was Wakefield who got them that far.
“He had a good knuckleball and he threw strikes,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of base runners because of the way he was pitching, but he was quick to the plate. He kept the game in check. If we’re scoring, that’s a really good outing.’’
But they weren’t, at least not until the ninth. The Sox had just three singles before that, stymied by Marcum and Scott Downs. But against Kevin Gregg, there was life. After Victor Martinez struck out swinging, Kevin Youkilis singled up the middle and J.D. Drew doubled to center field. One run was in, and David Ortiz — owner of two of those three pre-ninth-inning singles — was at the plate.
He worked the count, starting at 0-and-2 and moving to 3-and-2. Then came the pitch. It was — according to replays, pitch zones, and the naked eye — about 4 inches outside.
It was called a strike. The designated hitter exploded, shouting at plate umpire Dale Scott and making gestures that seemed sure to get him ejected. He wasn’t, even though he added a few choice comments as he walked back to the dugout. Francona came out to argue, and was told to return to his seat.
He wouldn’t remain there for long, though, as Adrian Beltre also got into it with Scott, this time on a swing the third baseman thought was checked and the plate umpire did not. Francona came out again, knowing he would be immediately tossed. He was.
“It was interesting,’’ Dustin Pedroia said of the strike zone. “They must have had a flight. I’m actually going to check on that, if they had a flight. We’re going to make sure it’s delayed. Because I can do that. I have that kind of pull around here.’’
Quips aside, the Sox were clearly not pleased with the strike zone, and Ortiz’s anger boiled over in the clubhouse.
“Thank God I wasn’t hitting righthanded, cause that would have hit me in the ribs,’’ Ortiz said.
But the Sox didn’t produce in earlier opportunities, as Marcum lived down in the zone, locating exceptionally well. He has allowed just one run in 14 innings against the Sox this season, striking out 11. He kept them off the bases, and that kept Wakefield from a win.
It didn’t keep Wakefield from a milestone, though, as the knuckleballer got Vernon Wells swinging to end the fourth to record the 2,000th strikeout of his career. The accomplishment was posted on the center-field scoreboard, as the fans stood and cheered.
“I’m very proud of that,’’ Wakefield said. “It’s a tribute to longevity and I feel very blessed that I’ve been able to wear this uniform that I’ve been wearing for a long time, and been able to accomplish 2,000 strikeouts.’’
His head popped back up, out of the dugout, and the pitcher tipped his cap to the crowd.
“It’s phenomenal,’’ Wakefield said. “The fans have been behind me the whole time I’ve been here, so I’m very, very proud to be able to come out and get an ovation for an accomplishment or a great start like my last one. They acknowledge great work, and I’m honored to be able to tip my cap to them.’’
There is no long-term plan for Wakefield. It’s unknown when Beckett will return to the rotation, and until that is decided, Wakefield is in limbo. Because he threw 102 pitches yesterday, Wakefield won’t be pitching out of the bullpen anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be back there as soon as Beckett returns. It’s not a situation that makes the knuckleballer happy, but it’s one he has to accept.
“It’s been very difficult,’’ Wakefield said. “It’s obviously a situation that I don’t want to be in. Not happy about it, but it is what it is, and I have to deal with it.’’