Wakefield outdueled in loss
Veteran continues to find little success in Arlington
ARLINGTON -- When Tim Wakefield pitches on the road against the Rangers, it seems like he's either off his game or the Boston bats are off theirs. The latter of those scenarios took place Friday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, a venue that has been a personal house of horrors for Wakefield in his lengthy career.
The veteran knuckleballer, in dropping a 2-0 decision to the Rangers, fell to 4-11 lifetime in Texas, and 7-14 overall against the Rangers.
It wasn't as if Wakefield could have pitched much better. Over six solid innings, he gave up three hits and two runs, only one of which was earned.
"I've never seen Wakefield that tough before," said Rangers shortstop Michael Young. "It was ridiculous. It was like playing Wiffle Ball. I wanted to turn around and ask [Doug] Mirabelli how he could catch these balls because I couldn't hit them."
Not that it hurt the Rangers' cause any. The Red Sox simply had no answers against promising Rangers right-hander Robinson Tejeda, producing just two hits over seven innings.
"He threw his fastball up in the zone from the first hitter to the last hitter he faced," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "We continued to not get on top of it. I don't know how many fly outs we had. A couple firm, but for the most part, just kind of lazy fly balls. Just couldn't quite get extended. He lived on the top of the zone, as he has done throughout a lot of the spring."
In actuality, there were two recurring themes for Wakefield on this day. Not just his bad luck in Texas, but also a carryover from last year, in which he was the starter who didn't get run support.
Consider that in Wakefield's 11 losses last year, the Red Sox scored a grand total of six runs.
"I don't care about last year," Francona said. "If we start thinking like that, this year is going to be a long year. He pitched well. If he pitches like that, we'll be just fine."
The pleasing thing for Wakefield is that he's healthy again after missing more than two months of last season with a fractured ribcage.
"I feel great," said Wakefield. "I said that in Spring Training. I feel 100 percent. I was able to get all my work done in Spring Training without any problems and it was good to get this first one out of the way. Unfortunately, I took the loss."
If only there was some friendlier weather in Texas, it could have been an entirely different game. With one on and two outs in the fourth, J.D. Drew belted a drive that had some in the Boston dugout thinking about a game-tying, two-run homer. But the wind knocked it down, and into the glove of Sammy Sosa at the warning track.
"I thought it was out," Francona said. "I've been in this stadium enough times to think that's a home run. At some point later in the year, it will be."
Drew knew better. The same area of the stadium where he hit the ball is the same place he was standing on defense.
"Yeah, I thought it had a chance," said Drew. "But what you can't see is the wind blowing in pretty stiff in right field. I could feel it at my back the whole time. It's just the nature of the game. Maybe in the middle of the summer, that's a home run."
The one break the Sox seemed to have going for them is when Rangers manager Ron Washington pulled Tejeda after 77 pitches. But the Sox had no answers for the Texas bullpen. Joaquin Benoit kept Boston off the board in the eighth and Akinori Otsuka pinned down the save in the ninth.
The Rangers struck first on the unlikeliest of hits. Sosa took a checked swing, and the ball got just enough of his bat to drop over the head of second baseman Dustin Pedroia. The two-out bloop was good for an RBI single. The run was set up by a Frank Catalanotto walk and a single to left by Mark Teixeira.
Back came the Rangers for one more in the second, though this time they had help. Pedroia committed a throwing error on Brad Wilkerson's leadoff grounder. Wilkerson then stole second, putting himself in position to score on Gerald Laird's RBI single to left.
"It just kicked up on me a little bit, kind of hit me on the wrist," said Pedroia. "Stuff like that happens."
Wakefield has seen it all happen in Texas, though he's learned to take it in stride by now.
"It's one of those days where the guy on the other side pitched really good against us," said Wakefield. "I tried to keep us in the game as long as possible."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.