Phillies fooled by fill-in
Wakefield goes 8 scoreless while Sox get to Halladay
PHILADELPHIA — When the figure began walking in from the visitor’s bullpen, there was certainly disappointment in a few quarters. Ramon Ramirez was entering the game, taking away the chance for the Red Sox’ resident senior citizen, 43-year-old Tim Wakefield, to throw a complete-game shutout.
But it was Wakefield himself who had gone to Terry Francona after the eighth inning, letting his manager know that he had had enough. He was tired. It was time.
So, no, Wakefield wouldn’t record his first complete-game shutout since taking down the Mariners of Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez July 29, 1997. He would, however, get his first win in nearly 11 months as the Sox beat the Phillies, 8-3, in the series finale at Citizens Bank Park. His last victory came against Oakland last July 8, just before heading to his first All-Star Game.
“Very satisfying,’’ said Wakefield, who was pitching in place of the injured Josh Beckett.
“He was great,’’ said catcher Victor Martinez. “Obviously he got pretty good movement on his ball today, and he was able to keep them off-balance. That thing was moving.
“When the ball is moving like it was today, it’s not fun to hit it. You just don’t know. When you’re going to swing the bat, you’re just hoping one mistake is floating. But all of them, they were moving pretty good.’’
The win was crucial for the Sox as they attempt to distance themselves from a rough start. Not only did they beat the Phillies twice in three games, they also moved three games over .500 for the first time this season, just before they got on a plane to Florida where the best-in-baseball Rays await for a three-game series starting tonight.
“Momentum is a huge deal for us going into Tampa, playing the first-place team in our division right now,’’ Wakefield said. “Hopefully we can continue this run that we’re on.’’
That run has been made possible by increased offensive production and stellar starting pitching. Wakefield is the fourth Sox starter in the last five games to throw at least eight innings, following Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester (nine), and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Sox starters posted a 1.66 ERA in the last turn through the rotation, allowing seven earned runs over 38 innings.
“Somebody asked me the other day if I think it’s contagious,’’ Francona said. “If it is, I hope we get an epidemic.
“It’s a good way to play the game. I think it relaxes everybody. You don’t have to score a bunch of runs early. You’re not playing catch-up. It allows your offense to kind of take a deep breath, and then again if you work the pitcher, you get rewarded for it.’’
And to add to Wakefield’s impressive performance, not only did he beat an excellent lineup, he also outpitched former AL East foe Roy Halladay.
“He may be the best,’’ Francona said. “You have to make him work for everything. If he makes a mistake, you better hit it. We worked some deep counts, we had a very good approach today.’’
No one made him work more than Kevin Youkilis. Entering the game, Youkilis had battered Halladay to the tune of a .352 average, with one of his 19 hits a home run. He made it two yesterday, homering to lead off the sixth, the last inning Halladay would pitch. Youkilis already had tripled and scored in the second, and walked and scored again in the fourth. The only times he was retired came after Halladay had left the game.
“If you go up with the mind-set you’re facing Roy Halladay, there’s no pressure on you,’’ Youkilis said. “I think there’s more pressure on the pitcher a lot of times. So you just go up there, just grind out the at-bat. Got to be confident in your abilities against him, not try to go to his strengths and your weaknesses. You have to stick to your strengths.’’
After Youkilis’s homer, the Sox scored three more runs in the inning. J.D. Drew doubled, Adrian Beltre singled, and Marco Scutaro hit a one-out RBI single. Following a Wakefield sacrifice, Jacoby Ellsbury grounded a ball up the middle that shortstop Juan Castro grabbed as Beltre came home. Castro threw to third base, behind Scutaro, but Scutaro kept running to the plate and scored to make it 7-0.
Asked how he felt stepping into the batter’s box, Wakefield said, “Scared to death, considering I didn’t take any batting practice these last couple weeks.’’
Halladay, though, isn’t all that scary to many Sox batters, it seems. They burned him for seven runs (six earned) and the former Blue Jay now has a losing record against the Sox — 14-15, with a 4.39 ERA.
While the Sox smacked Halladay around, Wakefield became the oldest American League pitcher to throw eight shutout innings since 44-year-old Charlie Hough for the White Sox July 20, 1992.
“That thing was dancing all over the plate,’’ Dustin Pedroia said of Wakefield’s knuckleball. “He was great today. We’ve got some good pitching performances the last few days. That definitely helps. Now we need to do it against Tampa, try to shut them down.
“We weren’t playing very well the first time we played them. Hopefully we go in there and play better.’’