Wake up and smell the home cooking
Lineup switcheroo gives Wakefield the win against the Rockies
BOSTON -- The first night of trading places in the lineup for Dustin Pedroia and Julio Lugo translated into a satisfying 2-1 victory for the Red Sox and a masterful Tim Wakefield on Tuesday night at Fenway Park.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona had moved Pedroia up to the leadoff spot and the slumping Lugo down to the No. 9 spot for the opener of the six-game homestand against the Rockies. And when the game was hanging in the balance -- tied at 1 entering the bottom of the eighth inning -- it was Pedroia's turn to lead off again.
In his new role, Pedroia is expected to make things happen. And that's what he did, slamming a single to left. With one out, David Ortiz walloped a double off the bullpen wall in right and pinch-runner Alex Cora scooted on to third. After the inevitable intentional walk to Manny Ramirez, J.D. Drew drove Jeremy Affeldt's 3-1 offering to center for a sac fly that easily scored Cora.
"We don't do it just for one game," Francona said of the lineup change. "That's probably not the right purpose. I think we try to look at it more in the long haul. I think the reasons were pretty sound, or we wouldn't have done them."
And Lugo held up his end of the bargain, leading off Boston's only other successful rally of the night with a one-out double to left. He scored on a double to right by Kevin Youkilis.
"It's nice to get a hit," Lugo said. "Now, I'm relaxed. Every time you get a hit in your first at-bat, you feel good; you know you've got a chance to get another hit."
For as Francona pointed out after the game, it's far too early to proclaim the new alignment as a smashing success.
"Trying to keep it in perspective, we scored two," Francona said. "If we lose 10-2, [the media] is probably saying, 'Nice move,' so you just try to keep it in perspective."
The offense did just enough to make a winner out of Wakefield, who limited the Rockies to four hits and one run over eight innings, walking one and striking out three.
Closer Jonathan Papelbon -- whose 97-mph pitches had to look like 107 after eight innings of Wakefield -- came on in the ninth for a dominant save.
"I thought he was very good," Francona said of Papelbon. "He was right on line, and the ball was crisp coming out of his hand. He was commanding."
But it was Wakefield who had the command performance of the evening. Perhaps his Sunday side session in Phoenix under the watchful eye of former Major League knuckleballer Tom Candiotti paid dividends.
"Just being able to talk to somebody, whether it's Candiotti or Phil [Niekro] or [the late] Joe Niekro or Charlie Hough, it means a lot to me, because they battled some of the same feelings that I battle during the course of a year," Wakefield said. "To have him watch my side [session] and approve the way it's working, or just some mechanical tips he may have had, or some thoughts that I may have had that he agreed with gives me a lot of confidence."
But on the credit scale, Wakefield gave top honors to trusted batterymate Doug Mirabelli, who spotted something on video and the tandem worked it into his last two outings, which have consisted of four earned runs over 14 2/3 innings.
"[Candiotti] made a suggestion, but the biggest hero in that is Doug," Wakefield said. "Doug found a little mechanical flaw between my last start here and when we went to Oakland. He saw something in my delivery that we changed and it felt a lot better, and I carried that into the Oakland start. Maintaining that and being able to talk to Candy about that ... the one thing that he thought about along the same lines really helped."
Clinging to a 1-0 lead with just six outs to go, Wakefield surrendered a leadoff double to right in the eighth inning. With two outs, Yorvit Torrealba came through with a clutch RBI single up the middle to tie it at 1.
Wakefield was nasty early, holding the Rockies to one hit over the first five innings.
"I knew he had good stuff," Francona said. "It is a little easier to say that after the eighth inning. But he came out and was good, and he was good right up to the end. That was a nice clean game to win."
With the win, the 41-22 Red Sox maintained their 9 1/2-game lead against the Yankees, who beat the D-backs on Tuesday night, in the American League East.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.