BOSTON (AP)—Tim Wakefield’s(notes) ninth win moved him another spot closer to the AL lead, and the Boston Red Sox think it might finally be the 42-year-old knuckleballer’s chance to make his first career All-Star team.
“You think about team goals and things like that,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said, “but there’s no doubt we’re pulling for him. We’re human, and there’s no getting around that.”
Wakefield (9-3) allowed two runs in six innings for his fifth win in six starts, but he has had more impressive streaks before. He went 8-1 in a late-season callup as a Pittsburgh rookie, and he won 14 of his first 15 decisions after joining the Red Sox in ’95; he was 10-3 at the break with Boston in 1998, but he has never been selected to the All-Star game.
“I’ve been (considered) a number of times in my career, and hopefully I’m mentioned again this year,” said Wakefield, who is closing in on Roger Clemens’(notes) franchise records for wins at Fenway and for starts. “That will mean a lot more when I’m retired. Right now, I’m just one of 25 guys in that clubhouse trying to get to the World Series.”
Wakefield fanned the first two Marlins with six straight strikes, and he finished with four strikeouts and one walk to tie with Minnesota’s Kevin Slowey(notes) with nine wins, one behind AL leader Roy Halladay(notes) of Toronto. Wakefield gave up six hits in all—two of them to Chris Coghlan(notes), who drove in both runs for Florida.
“My first at-bat he threw me a fastball for strike one. Then he threw me a knuckleball: it went left, it went right and down,” Coghlan said. “I usually watch a lot of tape. I watched about four guys and said, `This is pointless.’ All I could do is see the speed he throws it.’
“I said to myself ‘Wait for the high ones.”’
The Marlins, who swept Toronto over the weekend, were trying to reach .500 for the first time since May 13. Wakefield is 9-2 in his last 15 interleague starts, and his knuckleball was too tough of a task for an NL team that had faced him once since 2003.
“I don’t know anybody other than an American League East team that faces him six, seven times, you really don’t get accustomed to it,” Marlins manager Fredi Gonzales said. “You can watch all the video and tape and all that kind of stuff, but until you go out there and face it and see what that thing does, and the speed, it’s hard to make adjustments.”
“Pretty bad, I guess. Not much I can say,” he said. “It got out of control in the fourth inning. A couple of balls found holes and then the next thing you know they have five runs.
“This is definitely the toughest stretch I’ve had since I’ve been up here.”
Ortiz, who did not homer in the first six weeks of the season, now has five for the year—four of them in the last nine games. His batting average is back up to .210—still 73 points below his career average, but at least not below the Mendoza line, .200, where he stayed for most of the last month.
Ortiz homered into the Marlins bullpen to lead off the fourth, then came up again with the bases loaded and two outs and singled up to make it 8-1.
NOTES: Wakefield is 6-0 at Fenway Park this season. … Wakefield made his 380th career start for Boston, two behind Roger Clemens for the most in Red Sox history. He has 90 wins at Fenway, five behind Clemens. … It was Boston’s 499th straight sellout at Fenway Park.