boston.com Sports Sportsin partnership with NESN your connection to The Boston Globe
RED SOX 8, BLUE JAYS 0

Wakefield delivers knuckle sandwich

TORONTO -- The petty bloggery, Barry blathering, and Papi peeving? Excess baggage, the kind the Red Sox were more than happy to leave at the border.

When a trip has been as good as this one was for the Sox -- five of six wins against the Twins and Blue Jays, a lead in the American League East stretched to seven games, 10 1/2 over toasted Toronto -- who comes home with such worthless stuff as souvenirs?

Instead, the Sox bring back such shiny mementos as:

A league-best 1.79 ERA for Tim Wakefield, who pitched seven shutout innings in Minnesota in the first game of this trip, seven shutout innings in Toronto in the last, and has thrown 16 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings.

"I hope it lasts all year," Mike Timlin said when informed of Wakefield's ERA. "I hope he wins the Cy Young."

Used to be the only time Wakefield's name appeared in the same sentence as Cy Young was when someone asked whether the 40-year-old knuckleballer intends to pitch as long as old Young did (44).

"So far, so good," said Wakefield, who in typical low-key fashion said he's looking only as far as Detroit, the team he'll be facing in his next start.

Wakefield set down 16 Jays in a row, a streak that started when catcher Doug Mirabelli and first baseman Kevin Youkilis caught Troy Glaus napping at first with Frank Thomas at the plate on a strike-'em-out, pick-'em-off double play that turned a bases-loaded threat into the last time the Jays were heard from the rest of the night in the Red Sox' 8-0 victory.

"He knew, I knew, [a play] was on, and fortunately [Thomas] swung through a pitch," Youkilis said. "Definitely a huge play for us, bases loaded, no runs scored. Wake was having a little trouble throwing the ball over the plate. Coming back to strike out Frank was huge and getting the runner out like that was great. I can't tell you what the sign was. You guys can't know everything."

Home runs in all three games in Toronto by third baseman Mike Lowell, including a three-run shot last night in a shocking six-run, third-inning uprising against Toronto ace Roy Halladay, who could not keep the Jays from losing their ninth straight game. Lowell has five home runs and is batting .407 against the Jays this season, and is batting .376 overall against Toronto, the highest average of any Jays opponent with 100 at-bats or more.

"Obviously, we respect him as much as any pitcher in the league," manager Terry Francona said. "It's nice to come away with a win any time he pitches."

Six straight hits by Youkilis, three on either side of a bruise-inducing pitch he took off the left leg Tuesday night. Youkilis delivered the first of six straight two-out hits against Halladay in a rally that began with a bloop hit by Alex Cora, who can now say the Sox have won all 10 games in which he has started. A hustling Cora eluded a tag by second baseman Aaron Hill on Julio Lugo's roller, then he scored on David Ortiz's double, and the rally was in full bloom.

Eighteen of Boston's 26 runs in this series came with two outs.

"I think it means we have good concentration, we're not giving at-bats away, guys are picking each other up -- when you score bunches, it's a good way to score," Francona said.

Terrific outings by every member of the Sox rotation, including a back-on-track Daisuke Matsuzaka, who won the middle game here with the same kind of support (9-3) enjoyed by unbeaten Josh Beckett (a 9-2 winner) in the first game of this set and Wakefield last night. The Sox outscored the Blue Jays, 26-5, in the sweep.

Four Sox starters had wins on this trip, and Julian Tavarez, a 2-1 loser to the Twins' Johan Santana, was outstanding in defeat. Sox pitchers had a 1.70 ERA (10 ER in 53 IP) on the trip. The hitters batted .293 with 10 home runs.

Closer Jonathan Papelbon never got out of the bullpen in the three games here.

"Of course I want to pitch, of course I want close games, but I'll take these any time I can get 'em," Papelbon said after the Sox won for the 11th time in 14 games.

"You've got to look at the long picture. It's a good thing in my mind. It's all going to come into play when we have to make the run we're going to have to make at some point, you know."

Rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who didn't play last night, sprang to life on this trip, hitting .643 (9 for 14); Manny Ramírez, who had two hits last night, is rolling along on a nine-game hitting streak (15 for 39, .385); and even slump-ridden J.D. Drew (4 for 43 coming in) had a couple of singles last night.

The Sox have won six of their first seven series on the road and are 14-6 away from Fenway Park. Last season, the Sox were five games under .500 (38-43) on the road, and just a game over .500 (41-40) in 2005, when they won the wild card. In 2004, when they won it all, they were 43-38 on the road.

"We've played .500 or a little better on the road," Wakefield said. "This trip is a big asset going home and building a little momentum in Fenway Park."

The Blue Jays, meanwhile, played like a team run aground. Halladay, who has allowed 17 runs in two starts in Toronto's losing streak -- and any time he goes south, health questions are raised -- made a wild pickoff throw in the first that led to a run. Glaus was picked off first in the bottom of the inning, then lost Julio Lugo's high bouncer in the lights for an error in the fourth. Vernon Wells singled to lead off the seventh against Wakefield, but was quickly erased in a double play. Hideki Okajima relieved Wakefield and fanned two in the eighth, and J.C. Romero finished them off.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES