Wakefield looks to tie for the major league lead in wins on Thursday night when the Red Sox open a four-game road series against the stumbling Baltimore Orioles.
Wakefield (16-10, 4.16 ERA) missed his last turn in the rotation due to a sore back, but that worked out just fine for the Red Sox as Clay Buchholz pitched a no-hitter Friday against the Orioles in his second major league start.
The knuckleballer has been superb in his last three starts, winning all three while allowing no runs and nine hits in 22 innings. He pitched seven scoreless innings in a 14-2 win over the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 25.
Wakefield has a decision in each of his first 26 starts, the first to reach that number since Jack McDowell posted decisions in his first 27 starts with the White Sox in 1993.
“I’m going to try my best. It’s a long way away as far as breaking records and all that stuff,” Wakefield said. “I just want for us as a team to continue to win and get to the postseason. That’s all that’s important to me.”
Wakefield limited the Orioles to three runs and six hits in seven innings of a 7-4 victory at Fenway Park on Aug. 2. He is 12-11 with a 3.96 ERA in 30 starts against Baltimore.
Former teammate Kevin Millar is batting .474 (9-for-19) with two homers off Wakefield.
The Red Sox had a four-game win streak snapped Wednesday with a 6-4 loss to Toronto.
Boston relievers have allowed 14 runs in 17 1-3 innings over the last six games, an ERA of 7.27.
“We’ve pretty much been consistent all year,” said Manny Delcarmen, who allowed Troy Glaus’ eighth-inning homer that tied the score 4-all. “This is a time when everybody has to pick each other up and we didn’t do it tonight.”
Boston’s lead in the AL East was cut to six games over the New York Yankees, who beat Seattle. The Red Sox and Yankees each have 22 games remaining, including a three-game series at Fenway Park starting Sept. 14.
Manny Ramirez missed his eighth straight game Wednesday with a strained muscle in his left side. He is not expected to play in this series.
Rookie Dustin Pedroia should be back in the lineup after getting a day off Wednesday. Pedroia has at least two hits in five straight games, going 13-for-23 with nine runs scored in that span.
This season can’t end soon enough for the Orioles (60-78), who are coming off another lopsided loss - 17-2 Wednesday at Tampa Bay.
Baltimore has lost 13 of 15, a stretch that began with a record-setting 30-3 loss on Aug. 22 to Texas. The Orioles have allowed eight or more runs in 10 of the last 15 games, posting a 9.54 ERA in that span.
“We’re trying to do the best we can,” manager Dave Trembley said. “But it’s just not working. The big innings are way too frequent.”
Garrett Olson (1-4, 7.22) faces Boston for the second consecutive start and third time in his rookie season. The left-hander dropped to 0-2 with a 6.17 ERA against the Red Sox on Saturday at Fenway Park and was reached for four runs and seven hits over 5 1-3 innings while Buchholz was making history.
Since giving up two runs in each of his first two major league starts, Olson has surrendered at least four in four straight outings. He is 1-1 with a 6.61 ERA in three home starts.