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Finally, a show of support

Red Sox back hard-luck Wakefield with 17 hits and 11 runs in a rout

Had he not caught the statistic on a clubhouse TV last night, Tim Wakefield never would have known or cared that in his eight losses this season, the Red Sox have scored a total of six runs while he was in the game. Last night, after he'd worked six innings of one-run baseball, he could smile at such a numerical anomaly, because his offense had piled up that many runs in the second inning alone, coasting to a season-high 17 hits and an 11-3 beating of the Nationals before 36,421 who watched the Sox move a season-high 13 games over .500 (41-28).

Wakefield hadn't won since May 28. Over his last seven starts, he's still just 2-4 despite a 3.59 ERA in that span. On the season, he has the same record (5-8) as his opponent last night, Livan Hernandez, despite the fact that his ERA is 1.82 runs lower (Hernandez 5.64, Wakefield 3.82).

But, having learned to pitch when he couldn't hit his way into the big leagues, having learned to throw a knuckleball when he couldn't get by with conventional stuff, and having overcome Aaron Boone, the 39-year-old will not be propelled to self-pity by a lack of run support.

``Human nature suggests he's had some frustration," said Gabe Kapler. ``How much he shows to the outside world is unusual."

Unusual and admirable. Last night, though, he got his due. The Sox scored six times in the second on six hits, scored single runs in the third and fourth innings, and tacked on three more in the seventh. In a neverending second, they sent 12 men to the plate (Hernandez was lifted after 10 had batted). Doug Mirabelli, who was 3 for 30 this season against righthanders, doubled in Trot Nixon off Hernandez to open the scoring, and if that wasn't a sign of things to come, nothing was.

Nixon was 2 for 2 in the inning, leading off with a single and doubling with two outs to knock in the sixth run and knock out Hernandez, who pitched more innings last season (246 1/3) than any pitcher in baseball but lasted just 1 2/3 last night. Mike Lowell also reached twice in the inning, both times by way of a walk. Coco Crisp made the first out and then the last out of the inning, fanning with the bases full.

Crisp, though, would redeem himself leading off that three-run seventh by homering over the Wall off lefty Bill Bray. Crisp had just 60 career at-bats at Fenway entering the seventh inning and never had he homered here. His solo shot, his third of the season (all righthanded), made it 9-0. The Sox tacked on two more in the inning, when Mark Loretta (three hits, three RBIs) singled in Alex Cora (three hits, four times on base, three runs). Kapler, who'd pinch run for Manny Ramírez in the sixth, singled in Kevin Youkilis to make it 11-1. That improved Kapler to 4 for 6 since coming off the DL over the weekend in Atlanta.

Speaking of Atlanta, the suddenly surging Sox have won five in a row, matching a season high. And all five wins have come against National League East teams, Atlanta and Washington, improving the Sox to 7-1 in interleague play this year and 16-2 since June 12, 2005.

Wakefield ran into his only difficulty in the sixth, when he allowed four consecutive runners to begin the inning (single, double, hit by pitch, walk).

``I threw some good pitches that they weren't swinging at," Wakefield said. ``The bottom was just falling out of them down low, but they weren't biting."

Wakefield's counter move: ``I got my aim up a little higher. I made a little bit of an adjustment to get the ball up a little bit. I don't like to pitch that way, obviously."

But, it did the job. He fanned Marlon Anderson and Ryan Zimmerman, and Robert Fick then flied to left. Wakefield, with that, got out of the sixth with just four hits against and one Washington run across.

With that, Sox starters improved to 6-1 with a 3.83 ERA this year against NL teams. The Sox' offensive totals against the NL are even more audacious, to the point that even the conventional-thinking Nixon (``I'm not the biggest fan of interleague play") has to appreciate this segment of the schedule.

The Sox, according to statistician Chuck Waseleski, are batting .323 and slugging .531 against NL teams with a .399 on-base percentage. They've swatted 14 home runs and knocked in 54 runs in those eight games. Conversely, they're hitting .279 and slugging .438 vs. the AL with a .363 OBP.

Even Sox pitchers are hitting .313 (5 for 16) with a homer and 3 RBIs off NL pitching.

And so, tonight the Sox are poised to make it six in a row when Jon Lester takes the ball. Washington has gotten just 5 1/3 innings out of its starters over the last two nights.

``I don't know what we'll do even [for] short [relief] really," manager Frank Robinson said. ``We're going to have to go to the bullpen and I don't know who will be ready out there other than [closer] Chad [Cordero]."

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