Break over, Wakefield, Sox take hit
The bright yellow 2 had been posted to the scoreboard with just one out in the game. Five batters into the top of the first, the first inning back from the All-Star break for the Red Sox, and already the Rangers had done damage. So, as that number went up in left field, pitching coach John Farrell made the all-too-early walk to the mound.
He stood there, conversing with starter Tim Wakefield, with Nelson Cruz waiting on deck. The talk wasn’t as effective as the Sox might have hoped. Before even the second out of the game had been recorded, the Rangers turned the 2 into a 6 in the first inning and went on to record a 7-2 win over the Sox last night in front of 38,062 at Fenway Park.
“I’m as dumbfounded as anybody else,’’ said Wakefield, who fell to 3-8. “I looked at tape, tried to figure out mechanics. Just didn’t have it tonight. Bottom line, the results showed that.’’
Of the 15 batters that he faced last night, 10 swung at the first pitch, usually a good sign. Not in this game. In fact, Texas was so aggressive that Wakefield threw only 34 pitches, averaging little more than two per hitter.
“Normally, for us, Wake gets first-pitch outs or first-pitch contact it’s good,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “But they strung together a bunch of hits. Kind of a rarity when you see him attack the zone like that. But he just gave up so many hits. Went out in the second, had a five-pitch inning, and came back in the third and it looked like it was going to be another tough inning so [I] had to go get him.’’
It marked the sixth loss for the Sox in their last eight games.
“It’s hard to spot a team six,’’ Francona said. “That’s a tough way to play, especially [against] a good team.’’
The Rangers sent nine men to the plate in the first. After Wakefield struck out Elvis Andrus looking to lead off the game, the Rangers recorded three straight singles, starting with one by Michael Young after it appeared Young had struck out. It was called a foul tip, instead.
Said Francona, “I don’t think he fouled it, or I don’t think he’d have run. Most guys don’t run when they foul it.’’
That gave the Rangers an extra out, and they used it to their advantage. Ian Kinsler and Vladimir Guerrero followed with singles and Josh Hamilton doubled, bringing out Farrell for that consultation.
It didn’t work, as Cruz hit a two-RBI single and Bengie Molina followed with a two-run homer. Wakefield got the final two outs of the inning, plus three more in the second, but didn’t survive the third. After a single, an error by third baseman Bill Hall, and a double to start the third, Wakefield was gone.
“It’s not like they were driving the ball out of the ballpark,’’ Hall said. “They hit some balls hard, but that strike three call that we didn’t [get], that changed the whole tone of the inning. That guy gets a hit and the next guy gets a hit, and there goes the rally. Obviously, umpires are human and they make mistakes, but that was definitely a big point in the game and it was early.’’
Last night’s start marked the second straight game Wakefield had given up at least six runs, and it was his shortest start since going just 1 2/3 innings against Texas on Sept. 6, 2008. Including his seven runs allowed last night (six earned), Wakefield has a career 6.33 ERA against the Rangers, his highest against any club. It’s also the worst ERA against the Rangers franchise (since 1961) by any pitcher with at least 125 innings against the club.
“Talking to John after the game, he felt like I had some of the best stuff I’ve had all year coming out of the bullpen,’’ Wakefield said. “I don’t know. It’s one of those nights, they were very aggressive, they were swinging early, and obviously I didn’t have the depth or the movement on the pitch that I needed to get them out.
“The results proved how I pitched tonight. That’s not very pleasing to myself. I take a lot of pride in being able to go deep in games and the first inning dictated the rest of the day.’’
There were a few bright spots for the Sox, starting with the play of Hall in the field and at the plate. The fill-in third baseman made two outstanding plays defensively, leaving his feet to make a horizontal stab to keep Josh Hamilton on third in the fifth inning. He also started a double play in the sixth to keep the Rangers from adding on.
Hall also helped out with the bat, taking a pitch over the Green Monster in the seventh inning, the second solo home run for the Sox last night, after J.D. Drew smashed one in the fourth.
The bullpen contributed some impressive performances, including Robert Manuel’s 2 2/3 innings (two hits, one walk) and Scott Atchison’s three innings (one hit, one strikeout). By that point, though, it was too late. The Sox could not mount much of a comeback, finishing with just six hits.
No, the game was lost in the first when Wakefield became the first Sox pitcher to give up at least six runs and at least six hits in the first inning of a game since John Burkett allowed seven hits and seven runs against Baltimore Sept. 24, 2003.
“I think that when he’s in the zone and sometimes we use the word ‘violence’ through the zone, but a lot of movement, he’s very effective,’’ Francona said. “Today he was certainly in the zone, but they were squaring it up. He came out of the bullpen, [catcher Kevin] Cash and John Farrell both said the same thing, the ball was coming in and it was dancing all over the place. So when that’s happening, you just hope he throws strikes. He did, they just strung a bunch of hits together.’’