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After promising start, Wakefield just lost it

By Robert Mays
Globe Correspondent / June 4, 2010

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Yesterday’s game against the A’s was a chance for Tim Wakefield to distance himself from his last start, a 12-hit, nine-run outing over 3 2/3 innings that was one of the worst of the 43-year-old’s career. And for an inning, he did just that.

Wakefield retired the first three hitters, but the pitch Kurt Suzuki hit for a home run to begin the second was the first of several Wakefield would have liked back in the Red Sox’ 9-8 loss at Fenway Park.

Wakefield (1-4, 6.02 ERA) gave up six runs on eight hits in six innings, including a four-run fourth that gave Oakland a 5-2 lead it never surrendered. He has had two disappointing starts in a row since throwing eight shutout innings in a victory over Roy Halladay and the Phillies May 23.

Early on, Wakefield and catcher Victor Martinez agreed, the knuckleballer looked primed for a good day.

“He was looking pretty good, even in the bullpen,’’ Martinez said. “He was looking sharp.’’

Both also said it was just a few mistakes that ended up costing Wakefield.

“As the game went on, pitches started floating up in the zone,’’ Martinez said. “That’s it.’’

Said Wakefield, “I felt great, felt like I could’ve kept going. Unfortunately, I had a bad fourth inning, and it cost us the game.’’

One of those fourth-inning mistakes resulted in Suzuki’s second home run, a two-run blast over the left-field wall that gave Oakland a 3-2 lead and gave Suzuki the first multihomer game of his career.

It was the third home run of the series for Suzuki, just the latest instance of his success against Boston. Suzuki has a 23-game hitting streak against the Sox, the longest against one team in Oakland history.

“It’s hard to say I love facing the pitchers because in reality, they’re good,’’ Suzuki said. “But I seem to get pitches to hit, and when I get them, I don’t miss them. That’s the way you really want it to be.’’

Suzuki said Wakefield is the only knuckleballer he has faced in his major league career, and that while there are certain adjustments to be made against him, it’s difficult to pinpoint what leads to a game like the one he had yesterday.

“It’s hit or miss,’’ Suzuki said. “He’ll throw you a knuckleball that’s just nasty, and when you swing at it, you’ve got to hope it doesn’t do some kind of crazy thing.

“I got two pitches to hit, and when I swung at them, I hit them.’’

Wakefield’s last two starts are cause for even greater concern after this week’s announcement that Josh Beckett would miss at least another month because of lower back soreness. Beckett has been on the disabled list since May 19, and a meeting with team officials earlier in the week ended with the decision that he would not throw for at least 10 days.

Wakefield has taken Beckett’s spot, and he said that trying to come away with improvements from his latest outing is crucial.

“It happens like that sometimes,’’ Wakefield said. “It gets magnified. You’ve just got to take positives out of it.

“I went six. I kept us in the game. Unfortunately, it was just one bad inning that I made too many mistakes in, and it cost us the game.’’

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