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With the Red Sox fading from the playoff picture, Terry Francona penciled three rookies in their early 20’s into the starting lineup on Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays, along with 44-year-old knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. If the Red Sox had won on Tuesday night, the team was considering starting Clay Buchholz on three days rest on Wednesday to give the Sox one last chance at the playoffs. Instead, they were clobbered emphatically by Tampa, and Francona opted for Wake.
The game was one to remember for Wakefield, a 2010 Robert Clemente Award hopeful. First, he earned a $500,000 bonus because he surpassed the 130 innings plateau. Then, he pitched OK enough to get his fourth win of the season in an 11-5 Red Sox victory, making him the oldest pitcher (44) to win a game for the Red Sox (Dennis Eckersley was 43 when he earned his final career win in 1998).
Despite earning the win, Wakefield really didn’t pitch that well. He allowed four runs over the first two innings, including a three-run shot to Rays CF B.J. Upton. He settled down after that, save for a Jason Bartlett RBI double in the fourth. When it was all said and done, Wake went five innings, finishing with five runs allowed (four earned) on six hits and two walks with four strikeouts.
With all the fanfare surrounding his other accomplishments, Wake also quietly moved within 13 wins of of the all-time record for victories by a Red Sox pitcher (held by Cy Young and Roger Clemens with 192 wins each).
“Hopefully I get an opportunity to try and do that,” Wakefield said. “I know how important that is to me.”
With five starting pitchers under contract for next season, it remains to be seen if it’s possible for Wakefield to achieve the feat.
In other news, the Red Sox blasted five home runs in the rout of the Rays, including two for the previously injured Marco Scutaro. Adrian Beltre, David Ortiz, and Victor Martinez also homered for the good guys, who moved within 6.5 games of the Rays in the Wild Card hunt.
As for the aforementioned rookies, all who started were impressive. Josh Reddick had his first career three-hit game, going 3-5 with a run scored. Lars Anderson collected his first two big league hits and his first RBI, so congratulations to the possible future first baseman. Not to be forgotten, Ryan Kalish went 1-5 with an RBI double.
It’s hard to give Wakefield any more love than I already did, so it’s time someone else earns the nod. Marco Scutaro was tremendous in his return to the shortstop position, going 4-5 with 2 HRs, a double, 3 RBI, and 3 runs scored. He also comitted an error, but it did not prove to be too costly for the Red Sox in the end.
Let me put it this way: Hall has had better days this season. The utility-man finished 0-5 with a strikeout on the night.
W: Tim Wakefield (4-10)
L: Matt Garza (14-8)