Wakefield preserves pen, beats Blue Jays
The Red Sox placed another starting pitcher on the disabled list yesterday as Jon Lester joined Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka on the sidelines. John Lackey could be next.
In need of stability, if only for a night, the Sox turned to a 44-year-old man who throws a pitch that travels 66 miles per hour.
Tim Wakefield followed a season-long pattern by delivering more than expected. His seven strong innings saved a battered bullpen as the Sox beat the Blue Jays, 6-4, before a crowd of 37,404 at Fenway Park.
Wakefield allowed three runs on nine hits and struck out seven for the 198th victory of his career. He has 184 of those wins with the Sox, eight shy of matching Roger Clemens and Cy Young for the team record.
Wakefield started the season in the amorphous role of long reliever and spot starter, a position he does not enjoy but grudgingly has learned to accept. Since joining the rotation on May 22, Wakefield is 5-2 with a 4.47 earned run average in nine starts.
“I’m getting an opportunity to try to help us win, whatever capacity that might be in,’’ he said. “I’m very proud of the job that I’ve done so far.’’
Wakefield said he prepared himself over the winter to pitch 175-plus innings. Given the state of the rotation, that well could be what’s needed.
“It’s certainly nice to have a guy who can step in like that,’’ manager Terry Francona said.
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said Wakefield was as good as he has been all season last night.
“I didn’t know he could throw that knuckleball wherever he wanted to. I’m going to start talking and see if he can hit my glove,’’ said Saltalamacchia, who en dured three passed balls. “It’s impressive he can throw those pitches and put them where he wants to.’’
After giving up three runs on six hits in the first three innings, Wakefield shut the Blue Jays out over the next four. He threw 106 pitches, 77 strikes.
The long start was needed after the Red Sox had used their bullpen for 11 2/3 innings in the first two games of the series.
“That’s something as a starting pitcher you take a lot of pride in, to get deep in the game and to try and preserve those guys for the next series,’’ Wakefield said.
Daniel Bard, Dan Wheeler, and Jonathan Papelbon cleaned up the final six outs with Papelbon getting a second shaky save in as many nights as he allowed a run.
With MVP candidate Adrian Gonzalez getting his first day off of the season, the Sox had 11 hits, eight for extra bases.
Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis each had a solo home run and two doubles for the Sox. Ellsbury also drove in three runs and stole a base.
Toronto starter Ricky Romero, 26, is one of the better young lefthanders in baseball. But he’s batting practice for the Red Sox.
Romero lasted only 4 1/3 innings, giving up six runs on nine hits. In 11 career starts against the Red Sox, Romero has an 8.08 earned run average, giving up 79 hits over 52 1/3 innings. He has a 3.06 ERA in 68 starts against other teams. The Sox are hitting .357 against him.
Romero wondered after the game whether he was tipping his pitches.
Ellsbury hit Romero’s second pitch of the game into the seats in right field, just above the visitor’s bullpen. It was his 10th home run of the season, a career high already with 76 games to play.
“Fortunately [Romero] gave me something I was looking for and over the plate,’’ Ellsbury said.
Youkilis, back in the lineup after missing a day with a sore neck and back, homered to lead off the second.
Romero then retired eight of the next nine batters he faced. But with two outs and the bases empty in the fourth, the Sox pounced.
J.D. Drew drove a double over the head of center fielder Rajai Davis. It was his first extra-base hit in 52 at-bats dating to June 8 and his first double since May 9.
The struggling Darnell McDonald followed with an RBI single to left field. A single by Saltalamacchia and Yamaico Navarro’s double to left gave the Sox another run.
Ellsbury followed with a two-run double to center. The four runs gave the Red Sox a 6-3 lead.
“The biggest thing is not giving at-bats away,’’ Ellsbury said. “You don’t know when we can continue an inning with two outs. You try and have quality at-bats and each out is important.’’
Romero put two more runners on in the fifth before manager John Farrell finally pulled him.
The Sox have won six of their last seven games and closed to within a half-game of the first-place Yankees in the American League East. The last-place Orioles arrive at Fenway tonight to start a four-game series that will lead into the All-Star break.