For 16 years now, Tim Wakefield has dazzled hitters with his famous floating knuckleball. Randy Johnson has taken a different approach, hurling blazing fastballs past hitters for 22 seasons. In Wednesday night’s battle of pitching veterans, the junk was more effective than the heat as Wakefield hurled seven shutout innings in the Boston Red Sox 5-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Fenway Park.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, last night’s pitching match up was the oldest in combined age ever at Fenway Park. Johnson at 44 years old and Wakefield 42 next week still both still have what it takes to retire major league hitters on a consistent basis.
“I’m not facing him as a hitter, so it’s kind of cool,” Wakefield said. “I’m actually facing their hitters and they have a pretty good lineup over there.”
For seven innings, Wakefield was able to keep that pretty good Diamondbacks lineup in check allowing only two hits and no runs while recording six strike outs. The win improves his record to 5-5 on the season with a 3.88 ERA.
The Big Unit pitched well allowing two runs on eight hits over six innings but it just was not enough to win. Both the runs he allowed came from the hands of RF Brendan Moss who was in the game so that lefty J.D. Drew did not have to face the left-handed Johnson. Moss had an RBI ground out in the second inning that scored Mike Lowell and then in the sixth inning he drove in Lowell once again on a one out sacrifice fly.
“I’ve faced Wakefield enough times when I was with the Yankees,” Johnson said. “I’ve been on the other side of these. I guess what goes around comes around.”
Johnson was relived by right-handed pitcher Juan Cruz to start the seventh inning. Cruz was not sharp allowing a lead off walk to Lowell followed by Coco Crisp’s third double of the game. Wakefield’s personal catcher Kevin Cash then belted a 3-run homer over the Green Monster deep into the night sky. The blast was Cash’s first home run since June 21, 2005 which ironically came off of Randy Johnson when he was pitching for the New York Yankees.
Manny Delcarmen replaced Wakefield on the mound and pitched a perfect eighth inning with two strike outs to record his 11th hold on the season. Craig Hansen tried to close the door in the ninth but was only able to get the first two outs before loading the bases. Sox Manager Terry Francona wasn’t taking any chances and summoned closer Jonathan Papelbon to come in and nail down the final out. Papelbon needed to throw only five pitches before striking out Chad Tracy to finish the game and pick up his 23rd save on the year.
“It’s a lot better to play 5-0 than 2-0,” Francona said, “especially the way the ninth inning unfolded.”
The win improves the Sox home record to 31-10 on the year, the best in the American League. Overall, they boast a 49-32 record, which currently ties them with the Chicago Cubs for the most wins in baseball halfway through the 162 game season.
Next up, Boston hits the road for a 10 game road trip with stops in Houston, Tampa Bay and New York. The Astros are currently six games under the .500 mark at 36-42 on the season. They’ve lost seven of their last 10 games.
Believe it or not, the match up in Tampa may be the most exciting of the three road series. For the first time in franchise history, the Rays find themselves in the race for the division half way through a season. Currently they are only one game behind the Sox and have won seven of their last 10.
Following that three game set, the Sox will travel into the Bronx to take on the Yankees for four games over the 4th of July weekend. No one is promising any fireworks this year but New York has picked up their play over the past month, keeping them in playoff contention. The big bats are all still in the lineup, it’s their starting pitchers that have been shaky all season long and with Chien-Ming Wang out until Sept. things will not be getting any better anytime soon.
The Sox return home on July 7th for a three game series against the Minnesota Twins followed by three games against the Baltimore Orioles which will lead right into the All-Star Break.
Tickets are still available for all remaining Red Sox home games!