Sox put together another late win
Wakefield narrowly misses out on 200th
MINNEAPOLIS - There are no guarantees for pitchers, particularly ones who are sometimes twice as old as the batters they face. Theirs is a profession where a little spark of pain in the shoulder or elbow can mean two months on the sideline, if you’re lucky.
So for Tim Wakefield, there was a bittersweet quality to the Red Sox beating the Twins, 8-6, last night.
Wakefield played a key role in his team winning again, pitching seven strong innings on a night when his defense sometimes seemed to be playing with one eye open after a late-night victory against the Yankees the day before.
“Just the kind of start we needed,’’ his catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “Wake was tremendous.’’
But he was denied his 200th career victory when reliever Alfredo Aceves gave up the tying run in the eighth inning only to get an undeserved victory when the Sox scored twice in the ninth.
Relief pitchers who pick up these sorts of victories are called vultures around the clubhouse and Aceves is one of the best. He is 8-1 this season and 22-2 in his career.
For the 45-year-old Wakefield, it has become a familiar scenario. Last night was the third start in a row where he pitched well and was not rewarded with the victory. He has been stuck on 199 victories since July 24 despite giving up nine earned runs in his last 20 2/3 innings.
“Just happy that we won,’’ said Wakefield, whose countenance did not reflect those words. “I felt like I had a good knuckleball all night.’’
Wakefield stayed on the right side of the line in his postgame comments, expressing no disappointment.
“My job as a starter is to give us quality innings and go deep in the game. In the last three starts, we’ve won two out of three of them,’’ he said. “That’s the most important thing, keeping our lead in the American League East.’’
But baseball is inherently an individual sport and the players are judged and remembered for their statistics. Only 107 pitchers in history have won 200 games. Wakefield also has 185 victories with the Red Sox, tantalizingly close to the record of 192 held by legends Cy Young and Roger Clemens.
His teammates know how important those marks are.
“We’re trying for him,’’ said Dustin Pedroia, who went 2 for 5 and scored twice hitting in the cleanup spot. “It didn’t happen for him tonight but he’ll get it. We’ve all seen how consistent he’s been over the years. We’re trying our hardest to get him some runs and get him that win.’’
Even manager Terry Francona is trying. With the score tied in the seventh inning, he played for one run by having the team’s hottest hitter, Carl Crawford, bunt a 3-and-1 pitch to push a runner to third base.
The Twins foiled that strategy by intentionally walking Adrian Gonzalez, the leading RBI man in the majors, to get to Pedroia. Uncharacteristically, Pedroia grounded into a double play.
“We obviously want to win. Certainly, personally, we want Wake to get that win,’’ Francona said.
The Sox got Wakefield the lead in the next inning when David Ortiz doubled and scored from third on a ground ball to shortstop by pinch hitter Mike Aviles. Catcher Joe Mauer had Ortiz in his sights, but fumbled the throw from Matt Tolbert as Ortiz came down the line.
“It’s hard to catch the ball and tag the runner at the same time. I can’t imagine,’’ Ortiz said. “He heard the big elephant coming. He was shaking when I was coming in.’’
With Daniel Bard having worked the previous two games, Aceves was the choice in the bottom of the eighth and he failed.
On what could have been a night of toasts to his milestone, Wakefield instead watched as the relentless Red Sox offense won the game anyway, scoring two runs on five hits in the ninth inning off Glen Perkins (3-2) and Joe Nathan.
Ortiz (4 for 5) had an RBI single and Saltalamacchia an RBI double. The two had homered back-to-back in the sixth inning, helping Wakefield rebound from a 5-1 deficit.
Wakefield allowed five runs over seven innings, only three of them earned. Two misplayed balls in the outfield, a passed ball, and a dropped ball on a tag at the plate by Saltalamacchia led to three runs.
But Wakefield, aided by a lineup that pounded out 17 hits, stayed in line for the victory until Aceves snatched it away.
“I was very grateful I was able to get back into the game,’’ Wakefield said. “Our offense got us back in the game and I was able to go seven [innings] again.’’
Wakefield will make his 457th start, possibly Sunday in Seattle; there will be another chance. By now, it has become something the Sox as a group want to accomplish before they move on to their collective goal of winning a championship.
“It’s important,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “We want to get that big 200th win for him so he can stop thinking about it. He’s still going out there and pitching great.’’