Picking up No. 201 on Sunday afternoon could mean even more to the team.
There’s plenty riding on the finale of this weekend’s four-game set at Fenway Park, where Wakefield tries to help Boston stretch its wild-card lead over Tampa Bay to four while David Price(notes) and the Rays look to pull within two with 10 games remaining.
It seemed like Wakefield’s milestone victory might never come, as he went 0-3 with a 5.23 ERA in his first seven starts - also pitching once in relief - after earning win No. 199 on July 24.
He finally got it - along with a slight bump to his 5.03 ERA - on Tuesday. Wakefield (7-6, 5.13 ERA) gave up five runs in six innings, but the Red Sox (87-64) scored 10 times before his departure in an 18-6 rout of Toronto.
“(I’ve) been very fortunate to live out a dream I had as a kid, and I’m just thankful that it happened (Tuesday) and I’m very grateful that it happened in front of our home crowd,” Wakefield told the Red Sox’s official website.
Considering the stakes, the Fenway faithful will be even happier if Wakefield can come away with his 201st victory Sunday. Tampa Bay (84-67) bounced back from Friday’s 4-3 loss with a win by the same score Saturday, once again cutting Boston’s wild-card cushion to three games.
Jon Lester(notes) took the loss, and said afterward the Rays - who trailed Boston by nine games just two weeks ago - are benefiting from not having to deal with the weight of expectations down the stretch.
“It’s easier when you’re coming from behind than where we’re at. There’s no pressure. Obviously they’re doing a good job,” Lester said. “We’ve just got to grind it out. That’s the attitude in the clubhouse. We’ve got to stay working and grind. We can’t worry about what’s being said about us or what’s going on.”
Rays manager Joe Maddon, meanwhile, says he’ll be pretty happy with his team’s position - assuming it can win the finale.
“Of course the sweep was a great thought, and we lost that possibility (Friday),” Maddon said. “But three out of four ain’t bad, either. I think that Mr. Meat Loaf intended the song to say that.”
Wakefield’s 21 wins versus Tampa Bay are his most against any opponent and his 3.71 ERA is his lowest versus any AL club, but those are largely numbers of the past. The knuckleballer is 2-5 with a 7.48 ERA in his last 10 games - nine starts - against the Rays.
Countering for Tampa Bay is David Price (12-12, 3.34), who’s looking for his eighth straight quality start. Perhaps the best of those was Aug. 17 at Fenway, when he held Boston to three hits over eight innings of a 4-0 victory.
Price is 6-3 with a 3.07 ERA in nine regular-season starts against the Red Sox, but he’s 3-0 with a 1.25 ERA in three outings in Boston.
“I like pitching here. I like pitching against these guys,” Price told the Rays’ official website. “They’re a tough lineup … but I’ve thrown the ball well against them, and I look to do the same (Sunday).”
In four starts against Boston this season, the left-hander has had trouble with Dustin Pedroia(notes) - who’s 5 for 11 with a homer in their 2011 matchups - but he’s also served up some long balls to a less likely source.