Red Sox sweep as Wakefield hits milestone
He had no inkling. When Tim Wakefield recorded his 2,000th career strikeout with the Red Sox in yesterday’s 12-8 victory over the Seattle Mariners, fanning Mike Carp on a foul tip to end the sixth inning, he said he was unaware of the significance.
It wasn’t until catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia approached Wakefield to congratulate him that the 44-year-old knuckleballer fully realized the magnitude of the milestone.
“Salty was walking towards me and I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ ’’ Wakefield said. “And he said, ‘Congratulations on 2,000 strikeouts.’ ’’
A message on the video board in center field touted Wakefield’s achievement, triggering a thunderous ovation from the Fenway Park crowd of 37,650.
“Not that guys watch their stats, but that’s a pretty big number, so I assumed he knew he was getting close,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “When I told him, he was like, ‘Congratulations for what?’ and I was like, ‘Did I get this wrong?’ I wanted to make sure. I looked at the board and it said 2,000. He looked up and saw it and just started smiling.’’
Saltalamacchia embraced Wakefield, handed him the ball, and escorted him toward the dugout, where Wakefield doffed his cap to the crowd before descending the steps.
“It was a pretty cool ovation and a pretty cool day for me,’’ said Wakefield (6-3, 5.15 ERA), who joined Roger Clemens (2,590) as the only other pitcher in club history to record 2,000 strikeouts. It was the highlight of Wakefield’s 199th career victory, which he earned despite allowing a season-high seven earned runs on 10 hits, including a seventh-inning grand slam by Brendan Ryan that cut Boston’s lead to 11-7 and chased him from the game with one out.
“Any milestone that you achieve is ranked up there pretty high for me, and 2,000 is a high number,’’ Wakefield said. “It says a lot about being at one place for a long time, like I have, and going through ups and downs in my career and being able to persevere for the last 17 years.’’
Exhorted by the crowd, Wakefield made a curtain call, this time to an even louder ovation before he again retreated to the dugout where his teammates and coaches - except manager Terry Francona - congratulated him.
“It’s funny, because with the situation today, he’s not coming out of the game yet,’’ said Francona, who recorded a significant milestone himself in the three-game sweep of the Mariners with his 1,000th career win in Saturday night’s 3-1 victory.
“So not quite sure how to react to that,’’ Francona said. “I was thrilled people were showing their appreciation. I just kind of sit there and say, ‘I’ll shake his hand when he comes out.’ ’’
That happened in the seventh, when Wakefield gave up four consecutive hits, capped by Ryan’s second career slam. Still, it didn’t stop the crowd from treating Wakefield to another standing ovation.
“I’d like to have that seventh inning back,’’ said Wakefield, who acknowledged it was difficult to collect himself after all the adulation over the 2,000th strikeout. “I was very fortunate that we were able to score 12 runs today, which made it a lot easier.
“That last inning, I was pitching to the scoreboard and trying to get through that inning as quickly as possible. Just made one bad pitch.’’
The Sox erupted for 12 runs on 17 hits against five pitchers, who were unable to prevent the Mariners from absorbing their franchise-record 15th consecutive loss. The Sox scored at least 10 runs for the 14th time this season, matching their total from a year ago; they are unbeaten in those games.
Kevin Youkilis had a two-run shot to left in a five-run eruption in the first inning off Michael Pineda (8-7, 3.64 ERA), who was tagged for seven runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings.
That erased the deficit created when Miguel Olivo hit a two-run homer off Wakefield in the top of the first.
“We were fortunate,’’ Francona said. “Pineda has the reputation as you get into the game he starts getting stronger, as a lot of guys do. We got to him before he got into a rhythm and got comfortable and we got to him later.
“Sometimes you get a guy like that and you look up in the sixth inning and he’s throwing 97 and you’ve missed your opportunity.’’
After the Mariners got one back in the fifth on Ryan’s RBI double to left, the Sox came back in the bottom of the frame and sent Pineda packing after roughing him up in another five-run outburst.
With one out, Adrian Gonzalez singled to center, Youkilis walked, and after Aaron Laffey relieved Pineda, David Ortiz singled to short. Carl Crawford, who went 3 for 4 with a walk, 2 runs, and 2 RBIs, then hit a two-run single through the hole at short.
Josh Reddick doubled off the wall in left-center to score Ortiz, and Saltalamacchia (3 for 4, 4 RBIs) followed with a two-run single to right to make it 10-3.
Dustin Pedroia, whose career-high 20-game hitting streak seemed in peril, extended it to 21 when he doubled to center in the sixth. Gonzalez (3 for 5, 2 runs, 2 RBIs) singled up the middle to drive in Pedroia, making it 11-3.
After Ryan’s slam in the seventh, Jacoby Ellsbury’s run-scoring flare over short scored Reddick in the Sox’ half to make it 12-7.
Alfredo Aceves relieved Wakefield and pitched the last 2 2/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits, to put the wraps on a series full of milestones.
“That’s why I enjoy being a part of this team, because there’s so many great people and great players,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “It’s what this team brings: 1,000 [managerial] wins, 2,000 strikeouts. It’s a legacy that keeps going on and on and it’s an honor to be a part of something like that.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.