Padres put on display
Wakefield offers up the fireworks
SAN DIEGO -- Somehow, on a night when Padres starter Chris Young dominated for seven innings and Josh Bard and Khalil Greene (twice) blasted Tim Wakefield offerings out of the ballpark, prompting center-field fireworks that befitted a ball leaving a yard this big, it was minor league substitute umpire Brian Knight who found himself as the most noticed -- and most derided -- man in Petco Park.
Knight, the third base umpire, missed two calls and then for his encore tossed Red Sox manager Terry Francona for arguing the reversal of the second ruling.
Knight slipped up in the fifth and sixth innings, first calling a ball clearly trapped by Manny Ramírez a catch, then calling a home run off Bard's bat a foul ball. Though replays showed Knight was wrong each time, and the umpires convened and got each call correct, he certainly didn't engender any sympathy from a peeved Francona, ejected for the second time this season.
"I have a feeling they probably ended up getting them both right," Francona said. "You get frustrated."
"I did not look at the video," said second base umpire Dana DeMuth, the crew chief, "but I know [we got it right]."
However, it was Wakefield's knuckleballs -- three of which left the park to left field, including back to back in the sixth -- that provided the margin in a 6-1 loss to the Padres. The game was played in front of a crowd of 44,457 Red Sox and Padres fans who were united only in booing Doug Mirabelli for striking out, which he did twice.
"Just seems like every ball I made a mistake on they hit," Wakefield said. "The stuff that I had tonight, for me to give up six runs in 5 1/3 blows me away."
Though David Ortiz smiled during batting practice, hitting pitch after pitch into the far reaches of Petco, his show of power had more to do with the metal bat he was using that any thoughts of conquering the outfield fences. Yet that distance didn't seem to bother the Padres, with Greene pushing the score to 2-0 on an 0-and-2 pitch that he deposited into the first tier of seats in left. That was followed by Kevin Kouzmanoff's single, the one changed from an out when Knight consulted his colleagues on the non-catch by Ramírez.
But what followed were the true fireworks -- and not just the sparklers blasting out of the black backdrop in center. With Mike Cameron having doubled, former Sox catcher Bard smoked a pitch off the foul pole. The ball ricocheted back into the playing field, a sure sign it was fair.
Knight, however, called it foul. But not for long. Arguments came from the Padres, and another meeting was assembled. Again, the call was reversed, giving Bard a two-run homer and Francona a chance to get himself ejected. (And seemingly become unhappier one batter later when Greene hit his second homer of the night, prompting Wakefield's exit.)
"Very deflating," Wakefield said of the reversals. "Especially the first one. The umpire makes a call, it should stand. I feel bad for the young umpire at third base, two calls he made were wrong and they were changed."
So, while Wakefield's knuckleball was fooling few, Young was fooling all. Young pitched seven innings and struck out 11 while allowing a single hit, only the fourth time he has struck out double digits in his career. Masterful, though hardly efficient, ending his evening with 110 pitches, Young demonstrated the benefits that a 6-foot-10-inch frame -- and an appeal on his suspension last week that allowed him to pitch -- can provide.
"We saw him [in 2004], dominated us that game with basically one pitch," Francona said. "Now all of a sudden he's got a couple years under his belt. He's throwing offspeed for strikes. He's elevating that fastball and, with his size, he still gets an angle. To go with his stuff, he's got some deception. Hitters, they don't get a good look at that ball. He's a phenomenal pitcher."
Before the game, Francona had said he wanted to make sure his 3-4-5 spots in the order remained strong, even with Kevin Youkilis and Jason Varitek on the bench at the start, so he hit J.D. Drew fifth instead of his new leadoff spot.
But there was nothing Francona could do about the bottom of the order, a current black hole of hitting.
Not exactly the players a manager wants to see at bat with two on and no outs in the fifth inning, in what would be the Sox' best chance of the evening.
Wakefield, a former infielder, clearly isn't the best offensive option among himself, No. 7 batter Mirabelli (.182), and No. 8 Julio Lugo (.196).
And he struck out swinging as easily as they did, giving Young his eighth, ninth, and 10th strikeouts.
But with Lugo hitless in his last 21 at-bats before that chance, and Mirabelli in a 6-for-48 dive, neither was a good choice with no outs and two men on base.
And predictably, no one scored for the Sox in that situation, or in any other until a single run in the ninth.
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.