When Tim Wakefield’s knuckleball starts to dance, he knows that opposing batters are in for a long game of doing the two-step tango. That two-step involves the swing, and the miss. Wakefield saw plenty of that in last nights 5-0 Red Sox victory over the struggling Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Wakefield hurled 8 dominant innings allowing only two hits, no runs or walks while striking out 6 batters in the winning effort.
“I felt really good tonight. It felt really good throwing strikes with all three pitches,” said Wakefield, who threw more fastballs and curves than normal. “When I establish I can throw strikes with my knuckleball, it helps make my other pitches better.”
With the win, Wakefield improved to 3-1 on the season with two of those victories now coming against Detroit. It was also his first win since his start on April 20th vs. the Texas Rangers. The win was the 171st of his career which puts him 13th on the active list and 3rd in Boston Red Sox history with 157 wins, only behind Cy Young and Roger Clemens.
Wakefield established that he was throwing the knuckleball for a strike early on and that allowed for him to mix pitches well throughout the rest of the night, keeping batters on their heels, never knowing what to expect.
“He threw all strikes,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “That’s the best breaking ball we’ve seen from him all year.”
While Wakefield provided the lift on the mound the Sox bats stayed hot as they collected 11 hits on the night including back to back homeruns in the 7th inning by David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Ortiz’s homerun was surrendered by Tigers starting pitcher Nate Robertson who lasted 6 1/3 innings while allowing 10 hits, 4 runs and 2 walks. He struck out 4 Sox batters but that last pitch he threw landed approximately 415 feet away from home plate in the right field bleachers at the hands of Ortiz’s 7th dinger of the year.
Ramirez welcomed rookie relief pitcher Freddy Dolsi to the big leagues by sending his first pitch over the center field fence for his 7th shot of the year and bringing him only 3 homeruns shy from having 500 career blasts. Ramirez had 3 hits on the night as did back up catcher Kevin Cash. Kevin Youkilis added a pair of doubles and scored a run for another productive offensive night in Detroit.
Mike Timlin pitched a scoreless 9th to preserve the win for Wakefield. The win was the Red Sox 5th victory in a row and 7th win in their last 8 games. The Tigers are now on a 5 game losing streak.
Tonight’s pitching match up features two rookies that have both pitched well in the early going of this young 2008 season. For the Red Sox, Clay Buchholtz boasts a 2-2 record but has looked very solid in his last three starts allowing 3 earned runs over 19 1/3 innings while striking out 21 over that period.
The Tigers send Armando Galarraga to the hill to make his 5th start of the year. Galarraga has replaced Dontrell Willis in the rotation until the superstar returns from the DL. In his previous 4 starts, the rookie has only allowed 5 earned runs over 24 innings for an impressive 1.88 ERA.
– Last night was Mike Timlin’s 1022 career appearance which ties him with Lee Smith for 9th on the all-time appearances list.
– Curt Schilling played catch for the first time in months before Tuesday’s game. The 41-year old pitcher has no plans to throw off a mound in the future but continues to make progress towards a possible return during the 2nd half of the season.
– Utility infielder Alex Cora (right elbow sprain) will begin a Triple-A rehab assignment today with the Pawtucket Red Sox and will be joined on Thursday by Sean Casey (right hip strain).
-As a starting pitcher, Clay Buchholtz has not won a start on the road in the majors.