Tim Wakefield has the highest earned run average of any pitcher who has won 200 games. So maybe it was fitting the milestone came on a night when he allowed five runs over six innings.
But what really mattered on this night was that Wakefield didn't allow a run over the final four innings, setting down 11 of the last 13 batters he faced. That gave the Red Sox offense time to go to work and an 18-6 victory is what followed.
“It means a lot to me that it came on a night we needed to win,” Wakefield said. “I’m glad it's over with, but I’m glad it came that way.”
The players celebrated with Wakefield in the clubhouse afterward. They then all followed the oldest player in baseball back onto the field to give the fans a chance to join in. It was nothing too wild, just a little champagne and a lot of smiles.
“There was some genuine happiness. Probably for us, too,” manager Terry Francona said. “It seemed like we’ve been waiting for that win as long as Wake’s been waiting for his.”
With the Rays losing in Baltimore, the Sox have a four-game lead with 15 to play. The losing streak is over and panic is quelled, if just for a day. All of those runs seemed to be the Red Sox sending their own message to the Rays that they weren't going to turn to dust.
The top two hitters in the lineup, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, were 8 for 10 with eight runs scored, three doubles, three home runs and eight RBIs.
“Every win is big; we’re going to come out and play every day like it’s Game 7 from here on out, we have to,” said Pedroia, who homered twice and matched his career high with five RBIs. “We have a great group of guys, very talented, but if we don’t play together we’re not going to be very good.”
As the game came to a close, those remaining in the crowd of 38,020 started chanting Wakefield’s name. They stayed until he emerged from the dugout and tipped his cap.
It was a celebration that could lead to others down the road.
“It’s a special thing to get to the postseason. A lot of guys are starting to realize it’s not that easy to get there,” Wakefield said. “It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Hopefully tonight’s win will give us come momentum going that way.”
As to other matters:
• Josh Beckett will start on Friday.
• No starter has been named for Thursday. Candidates would seem to include Andrew Miller, Kyle Weiland or even Alfredo Aceves, whose name Francona floated out there before the game. The idea would be to use Aceves for a few innings and then go to the bullpen, which now has (literally) 10 pitchers.
• Ellsbury has hit in 17 straight. As somebody with an MVP vote this season, he is rising to the top of the list. He has the highest WAR in the American League and a .922 OPS, which is insane for a leadoff hitter. Curtis Granderson has a .932. The question of whether Ellsbury is more valuable than Justin Verlander is tricky to answer.
• When Wake came up to the interview room to talk to reporters, he left a puddle of champagne at his feet. That dastardly Jonathan Papelbon got him good.
• David Ortiz is being described a day-to-day with his back spasms. Then again, ain't we all?
Thanks to everybody for reading today. Tremendous job by Mike Whitmer on the updates. Check out the paper tomorrow. We have five stories, photos, the works.