In a game decided by three straight walks issued by Texas pitchers in the eighth inning, what Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield did yesterday was even more remarkable.
Wakefield pitched eight innings and faced 31 batters. Of his 86 pitches, only 18 were called balls. He did not walk a batter. The most balls he threw in any inning was four, in the sixth. He faced three batters in the fourth and did not throw a single ball. He threw fewer balls in eight innings than three Rangers relievers - Wes Littleton, C.J. Wilson, and Jamey Wright - threw in 12 2/3 innings (27).
"That was more strikes than I think I've ever seen him throw," Sox manager Terry Francona said.
The knuckleball is often described as dancing, but in this case, it was a line dance, directly into the strike zone. It helped that the Rangers were not paragons of patience. Wakefield threw no more than five pitches to 30 of 31 Rangers; only David Murphy took him into a deeper count, with a seven-pitch at-bat in the seventh that ended with a ground out.
Meanwhile, six Rangers put the ball in the play on the first pitch.
"I think a lot of it had to do with them being very aggressive, a lot of swings on the first pitch," said Wakefield, who allowed seven hits and set down 13 Rangers in a row in one stretch. "I felt better mechanically, I had a better feel for the ball today."
And yet he also stood to lose, having given up a home run to Ian Kinsler on an 0-and-2 pitch to open the game, and a first-pitch three-run homer to Milton Bradley, his worst pitch of the game, with the Rangers taking a 5-0 lead through six.
"I was hoping for a comeback, obviously," Wakefield said.
He got it, the Sox scoring twice in the seventh and four in the eighth.
"Wake was a big part of that win, keeping us in it, saving the bullpen," said Sean Casey, whose bases-loaded walk accounted for the tiebreaking run in the eighth.
Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for his seventh save, with Wakefield improving to 2-0.
Lineup in limbo
Francona, who gave Dustin Pedroia the day off until he pinch hit in the eighth, was planning to give Manny Ramírez today off, if Coco Crisp (hamstring) was OK to play. With Ramírez having most of yesterday off after his second-inning ejection, that could change. It was Boston's first ejection this season and the fourth of Ramírez's career, the last Aug. 6, 2007 . . . There's a flu bug running through the Sox clubhouse, the most prominent victim catcher Jason Varitek, so ill, Francona said, that someone had to pick up Varitek and bring him to the park. "He looked awful," the manager said. Assuming he doesn't catch it, Clay Buchholz starts today against former Sox lefty Kason Gabbard . . . Julio Lugo played left field in the ninth inning, the first time he has played in the outfield for the Sox. Last time he was in the outfield was Aug. 23, 2006, when he played right field for the Dodgers. He has played 18 games in the outfield, 14 in his first two seasons in the big leagues for the Astros. Lugo did not handle a chance yesterday. The Sox finished the game with Jed Lowrie at short, Pedroia at second after he pinch hit for Joe Thurston, who had been playing left after Ramírez was tossed, and Lugo in left . . . Kevin Cash, charged with a passed ball, has two in four starts with Wakefield. Josh Bard had 10 in four starts in 2006 before being jettisoned by the Sox.
Stealing their hearts
Jacoby Ellsbury stole two more bases, and for the second time in four days, rushed a catcher into a throwing error, this time Gerald Laird. He has scored runs in nine of his last 10 games. The Sox are 9-1 in games in which Ellsbury scores . . . Pedroia's pinch double extended his hitting streak to nine games . . . The Sox left a season-high 14 men on base, but also had a season-high 15 hits and have had 11 hits or more in seven of their last eight games . . . Sox wives Shonda Schilling and Dawn Timlin, and Ellsbury's girlfriend, Kelsey Hawkins, are scheduled to run in today's Marathon. The women are all running for charitable causes. Sox VP of player personnel Ben Cherington is one of eight front-office employees also scheduled to run . . . Yesterday's ceremonial first pitch was thrown by US Army Sergeant Pete Rooney, who lost both legs when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb while he was serving in Iraq. Rooney, from Cummington, threw a strike to Lugo.
Gordon Edes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.