Veterans turn in fluid performance
Wakefield leaves Twins puzzled; Big Papi belts eighth homer
MINNEAPOLIS -- Pitching indoors proved the best cold medicine Tim Wakefield could get, with or without a prescription.
Two days after receiving intravenous fluids and leaving Fenway Park early -- a development the Red Sox kept quiet -- an under the weather Wakefield tossed seven scoreless innings to help Boston beat Minnesota, 2-0, and push its American League East lead to 6 1/2 games. The Sox haven't led the division by this much since the end of the 1995 season, when they finished seven games in front.
Former Twin David Ortiz cracked an upper-deck homer in the sixth inning to break a scoreless tie, a drive that managed to avoid the speaker Ortiz hit with a similar blast last year.
"That would have gone through a speaker," manager Terry Francona said.
Ortiz's 423-foot drive to right with nobody on ended 5 1/3 innings of frustration against Twins starter Carlos Silva, who until that point had kept the Red Sox in check with just two hits.
Wakefield walked six in 5 1/3 innings to lose at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, but his knuckleball was much more effective in the climate-controlled Metrodome. Wakefield scattered three hits, walked three and hit a batter to help Boston win its third straight. With the victory, Wakefield improved to 7-3 under the facility's Teflon roof in 11 career starts.
"I love pitching inside, and I love pitching here," Wakefield said. "I don't know what it is about pitching in a dome, but there's a little more movement on the ball. I can't explain it."
Francona said he never considered scratching Wakefield from the start. But Francona was concerned enough to check on the veteran every day, after Wakefield reported feeling ill earlier in the week. The Red Sox medical staff gave Wakefield two bags of fluid on Wednesday and sent him home early.
"I got about 14 hours of sleep, and that really helped," Wakefield said.
The Sox gave Wakefield the option of flying commercial to Minnesota ahead of the team, but he ultimately chose to take the team charter after Thursday night's 8-7 victory over Seattle at Fenway Park.
Before Friday's game, Wakefield appeared normal. He sat at a table in the clubhouse and busied himself with a crossword puzzle, at one point asking reporters for help with a six-letter word for chapeaux. (The answer: Berets.)
The Twins put runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings, but each time Wakefield pitched out of trouble. He did not allow a hit after Torii Hunter's single in third and retired 12 of his final 14 batters, walking Hunter and Justin Morneau back-to-back in the sixth.
"This was one of those nights where I didn't have a lot of strikeouts, but I got outs when I needed to get outs," Wakefield said. "I was fortunate in that when they hit the ball, they hit it at our guys."
Wakefield said he had a tough time breathing through his nasal congestion, and did not object when Francona chose to take him out.
"He was fantastic," said Francona.
As usual, the Sox struggled to score with Wakefield on the mound. In his last 11 starts going back to last year, the Sox have scored only 16 runs while Wakefield has been in the game.
Until Ortiz's homer, the Red Sox had come up empty on several scoring chances. Slow-footed catcher Doug Mirabelli was thrown out at the plate by shortstop Jason Bartlett trying to score on an infield grounder in the third. Two innings later, Twins right fielder Josh Rabe dropped Alex Cora's fly ball in the alley after a long run for a triple, but Julio Lugo lined out to Rabe running in the same direction for the third out.
Last June 15, Ortiz hit a drive toward the Kirby Puckett banner on the curtain in the upper deck in right that crunched a speaker and fell into the outfield for a single. Wakefield pitched against Silva that day, too, but lost, 5-3.
"Longest hit ever," Ortiz said. "Longest single ever."
His homer on Friday sailed to the right of the speaker and was the 200th career as a designated hitter, tying him with Chili Davis for sixth all-time.
Coco Crisp's single off Juan Rincon through a drawn-in infield in the ninth drove in Boston's other run.
The Sox bullpen finished up the combined shutout. Brendan Donnelly retired Hunter on a first-pitch foul pop to end the eighth after Joe Mauer doubled to left with two outs against J.C. Romero, another former Twin. And Jonathan Papelbon, who suffered his first blown save of the season Wednesday night, worked a perfect ninth for his ninth save.
"Everybody did their job," Francona said.
Beginning, naturally, with the knuckleballer with the head cold.
Pat Borzi is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.