44-year-old Wakefield oldest to win for Red Sox
So on a night when the 44-year-old knuckleballer became the oldest pitcher to win for the Red Sox, he was already looking ahead.
“It means a lot considering I’ve been here for 16 years,” he said after Boston beat the Tampa Bay Rays 11-5 Wednesday. “Anytime you can have some sort of milestone, it’s very important to have it in a Red Sox uniform.”
Wakefield (4-10) surpassed Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, who was 43 when he got his last win for the Red Sox.
Now he’d like to be the team’s top all-time winner. This was his 179th career victory with Boston, 13 behind the club record of 192 shared by Roger Clemens and Cy Young.
“Hopefully I get an opportunity to try and do that,” Wakefield said. “I know how important that is to me.”
Marco Scutaro(notes) hit two homers and Adrian Beltre(notes), David Ortiz(notes) and Victor Martinez(notes) also connected as warm temperatures on a late-summer night helped the ball carry out of Fenway Park. Four of the shots came off Matt Garza(notes) (14-8).
“We were kind of sloppy in a lot of areas and kind of hit our way through it, which is tough to do against their guy,” Boston manager Terry Francona said.
The Rays dropped to 2 1/2 games behind the AL East-leading Yankees. Boston is nine behind New York.
Tampa Bay opens a three-game series in Toronto on Friday before heading home to host the Yankees for three.
Ahead 4-0 early, the Rays let Boston tie it through three innings. Jason Bartlett’s(notes) RBI single in the fourth put Tampa Bay in front, but the Red Sox took the lead 7-5 and chased Garza with a three-run fifth.
“You’d like to think with him pitching under those circumstances we’d have a chance to add on, but they came back real quickly,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Martinez tied it with a leadoff homer into the back of the Red Sox bullpen. Ryan Kalish(notes) greeted reliever Chad Qualls(notes) with a go-ahead double off the left-field wall, a ball Carl Crawford(notes) might’ve caught if he hadn’t pulled up and played the carom. Kalish scored when third baseman Evan Longoria(notes) bounced a throw to first for an error.
Garza gave up nine hits and six runs in 4 1-3 innings. He came in 3-0 with a 0.99 ERA in his last four starts.
“That felt like they were in there whaling on everything I threw. I really didn’t have an answer,” he said.
Maddon thought it was the perfect setting for Garza.
“Yeah, it did surprise me,” he said. “He looked fine. He’s been rested. He hasn’t been overworked. A game like this is where he normally rises to the occasion.”
Longoria’s sacrifice fly had put the Rays ahead 1-0 in the first. They increased it to 4-0 in the second on Upton’s homer, a drive that hit a billboard above the Green Monster.
The Red Sox tied it by scoring two runs in both the second and third. Beltre homered into the Monster seats after Ortiz walked, cutting it to 4-2 in the second. The homer gave Beltre 1,001 career RBIs.
Scutaro and Ortiz each hit solo shots into the left-field seats in the third.
Notes: This was Scutaro’s first four-hit game with Boston. … The Red Sox tied their season-high with five homers. … Maddon said right-handed starter Jeff Niemann(notes) “had a great workout. There’s nothing wrong. Once he gets his confidence back, he’ll throw like he did the last year and a half.” Niemann has given up 23 runs in 16 2-3 innings over three starts since coming off the DL from a strained shoulder on Aug. 25. … Maddon also said that Balfour, on the DL for 32 games with a strained ribcage sustained horsing around with pitching coach Jim Hickey before being activated Sept. 1, “is not quite where he had been.” … Scutaro was back at shortstop after playing second on Tuesday because he has inflammation in the rotator cuff of his throwing shoulder, and the club wanted him to avoid longer throws. … Tampa Bay’s Carlos Pena snapped 0-for-25 drought with a fifth-inning single.