10/17/2004 3:37 AM ET
Wakefield's time comes early
Knuckleballer volunteered for bullpen duty
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
|Terry Francona talks to Tim Wakefield after lifting the knuckleballer in the seventh inning of Game 3. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
BOSTON -- Tim Wakefield didn't remember exactly when it happened, but it was early in Saturday night's game.
"It was in the second or third inning that I volunteered," he said.
Wakefield, who was supposed to be the Red Sox starter in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on Sunday, went up to manager Terry Francona in the dugout.
The game wasn't going well. The Yankees were teeing off on Red Sox starter Bronson Arroyo. It looked like help would be needed.
Wakefield stepped up. Francona and pitching coach Dave Wallace asked Derek Lowe if he could pitch on Sunday instead of Monday.
"Hey, big boy, this means you're going to have to move up a day," Wallace told him.
"No problem, I'm ready to go," Lowe said.
Wakefield heard that and went into his volunteer state.
"So I got my glove and went down to the bullpen," he said.
By the fourth inning, Wakefield was into the fray, floating his knuckleball in an effort to soften the stinging blows of the Yankees' bats. He already was the fourth pitcher used by the Red Sox.
And although he gave them 3 1/3 innings, he didn't have much more luck than anyone else in this blistering fray. He gave up five runs on five hits.
"We got ourselves in a bind," Francona said. "It was getting ugly."
He read a positive into Wakefield's effort in the 19-8 thumping. It helped save some bullpen help for Sunday night's must-win game.
"Because Wake did what he did, we were able to stay away from [Mike] Timlin and [Keith] Foulke. They can throw multiple innings tomorrow and give us a chance to win," Francona said.
"We got into a position we didn't want to get in. Wake really, really picked us up. ... When we win tomorrow, we'll have Wake to thank for that."
The Yankees battered six pitchers for 22 hits that included four home runs, a triple and eight doubles. No Boston pitcher was immune from the punishment.
"It was just one of those nights, it happened to everybody," Wallace said. "It seemed that everything we did kind of backfired so it's on us -- we made the wrong decisions."
The battering must have been tough for the pitching coach to watch.
"You can't be in this business and not go through those," Wallace said. "What makes it difficult is given the circumstance. Put it this way, it'll be a sleepless night."
Down 3-0 is a situation that no Major League team has survived in a best-of-seven series.
"It's not what you plan on, but it's something that you have to deal with," Wakefield said. "Unfortunately, this is the scenario that we have to deal with."
So it's up to Lowe to hold off the Yankee bashers on Sunday night. Once Wakefield went to the bullpen, it had to be Lowe.
"There were no other options we'd consider," Wallace said.
Not surprisingly, Wallace looked drawn in his deep disappointment.
"Tonight has taken a toll on us emotionally," he said. "We're trying to regroup and get back to playing a good, competitive game and try to extend it -- day by day."
They'll have to extend the hard way -- by winning four straight days.
"It's a loss and a tough loss," Wakefield said. "But we've been in this situation before -- not in a Championship Series but in the Division Series -- and came out smelling like a rose."
True enough. The Red Sox lost the first two AL Division Series games both in 2003, to the Athletics, and in 1999, to the Indians. Then the Red Sox rebounded to win each of the best-of-five series.
On Saturday night at Fenway Park, though, it was difficult to catch even a faint smell of roses.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.