Sox tip caps to Tigers' Verlander
Wakefield off his game, while Detroit righty stifles offense
BOSTON -- The soft-serve knuckleballs of veteran Tim Wakefield were sharply contrasted by the blinding heat of phenom Justin Verlander on Tuesday night at Fenway Park. This time, power won convincingly over finesse and youth got the best of age.
It was the Tigers coming up with a convincing 7-2 win that cooled off the red-hot Red Sox. Wakefield, who came into this one with an American League-leading ERA of 1.79, was victimized by a pair of home runs in the third that the Tigers catapulted into four runs.
Meanwhile, Verlander (4-1, 2.76 ERA) was simply filthy. Mixing in an upper-90s fastball with a changeup and curve, the Red Sox had no answer for the 2006 American League Rookie of the Year.
"You don't see that kind of power pitcher with that kind of stuff every day," said Sox slugger David Ortiz. "He's got great stuff. This guy, when he's trying to throw a strike, he can throw it at 96, 97 [mph] like it's nothing. When he's on, he can throw 100. Then he's got the changeup and the breaking ball."
Wakefield (4-4, 2.41 ERA) flusters hitters in a much different way. This time, he just happened to hang a couple of pitches that got hit a long way. Other than that, it was pretty much business as usual.
"I felt I had the same stuff I had in Minnesota and Toronto," said Wakefield after giving up five runs in seven-plus innings. "I've got to give credit to the Tigers. They've got a great lineup."
One other downer for the Red Sox was that right fielder J.D. Drew had to leave the game in the eighth inning with a lower back contusion. He sustained the injury after slamming into the bullpen wall on a Brandon Inge homer in the fourth.
The Red Sox were hopeful that the injury was not significant.
"We'd much rather be safe than sorry," said Sox manager Terry Francona. "We will evaluate him again [Wednesday]."
Knowing that Verlander (7 2/3 innings, six hits, two runs, seven strikeouts) is one of the stingiest pitchers in the league, the Red Sox were pleased to at least get something of substance in the bottom of the first. Kevin Youkilis and Manny Ramirez provided singles, setting up the slumping Drew for an RBI single to left that fell just in front of Craig Monroe.
The Tigers waited until the third to respond, but they did so loudly. Inge slammed Wakefield's fastball for a solo homer to right to tie the game. Later in the inning, Magglio Ordonez hit a mammoth three-run homer over the Monster and onto Lansdowne Street. Suddenly, the Tigers had a 4-1 lead.
Wakefield has had about enough of Ordonez, who is now 15-for-33 lifetime against him with two homers and eight RBIs.
"I got ahead of him 0-1 and threw a pitch that just broke right into his wheelhouse," said Wakefield. "Unfortunately, it happens that way and in that situation, it was a three-run homer that kind of put us out of the game."
But the fact that that one damaging swing put the Red Sox out of the game was far more indicative of the way Verlander was pitching than any fault of Wakefield.
"[Wakefield] threw the ball great," said Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli. "Other than really the home run to Ordonez, he was very good. It just happens when the knuckleball sometimes breaks in a different direction and runs into some guys' barrels."
A comeback became even more unrealistic when the Tigers rallied again in the eighth. Wakefield walked Gary Sheffield to open the inning and then exited. With two outs, Ordonez smashed a double that went just under the glove of third baseman Mike Lowell and all the way to the wall to bring in a run. Monroe lined an RBI single to left, giving Detroit a commanding 6-1 edge. Sean Casey tacked on another run with an RBI single to right.
Youkilis provided a rare offensive highlight for the Sox in the bottom of the eighth, bashing a solo shot off the back wall in center field.
But it was not nearly enough for the 26-12 Sox.
"He throws 98 to 99 with a curveball and a changeup," Youkilis said of Verlander. "The guy is good. There's a reason why he has a 2 ERA. The guy is really good. He throws 98 to 99 the whole game. You just have to tip your cap and move on to the next day."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.