Wakefield, 'pen help Red Sox end slide
Knuckler allows one run; Delcarmen and Co. handle rest
BOSTON -- The Red Sox escaped a fourth straight loss on Friday night, handcuffing the hapless Rangers, 2-1, with strong pitching and a little bit of luck.
The Sox, who entered the night with the league's second-lowest ERA in June, received another quality start, this time from knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Wakefield left the field with a 2-1 lead and a standing ovation after 6 2/3 solid innings, allowing seven hits and one run, even though he claimed he lacked his "best stuff."
"I felt like I made the pitches when I needed to make them," Wakefield said.
Boston native Manny Delcarmen got the nod in relief of Wakefield in the seventh and immediately walked Michael Young to load the bases. The next batter: Sammy Sosa.
Unable to harness his fastball -- he admitted he might have been overthrowing -- Delcarmen started the Rangers slugger with two balls. Third baseman Mike Lowell visited the mound to calm the 25-year-old reliever. Delcarmen ran the count full, earning the second strike on a foul tip, when the crowd rose to its feet.
"Believe me," Delcarmen said, "every time I come set, I look [forward] and I just see the fans screaming.
"It gets you a little more motivated to go."
Delcarmen stepped and pumped a 96-mph heater past a swinging Sosa. The crowd roared.
Hideki Okajima and closer Jonathan Papelbon shut the door on the Rangers in the eighth and ninth innings, ensuring the one-run win.
Papelbon, whose entrance in the ninth to pulse-pounding music routinely electrifies Fenway crowds, did not let the final inning pass without upping the energy.
After registering two quick outs, he induced a weak grounder on his ninth pitch to the Rangers' speedy Kenny Lofton. As the flip came from first baseman Kevin Youkilis, Papelbon and Lofton stepped on first almost simultaneously. Lofton was ruled safe.
"It's one of those balls that goes either way," Youkilis said.
Papelbon screamed at the umpire. Frantically, second baseman Dustin Pedroia shoved him out of the way. It didn't take long for manager Terry Francona to sprint from the dugout.
"By the time I got out there, I wasn't even concerned about arguing the call," Francona said. "I wanted to get [Papelbon] back to do what he needs to do."
Said Pedroia, "I was just trying to get him out of there."
Papelbon settled down and returned to pitch.
"That's just a situation where, man, I'm not thinking. Man, I've got nothing but 100 percent adrenaline going," Papelbon said. "That's part of the game, I think. You know, you just get out of hand sometimes. And it took me a few pitches to gather myself, obviously."
Early in Jerry Hairston's at-bat, Lofton took off, sliding safely for his fourth steal of the night. Papelbon then hit Hairston on the arm with a fastball, bringing Young to the plate with two runners on.
Two strikes and three foul balls later, Papelbon struck out Young looking to end the game, thrilling the 36,756 in attendance.
The Red Sox won despite managing just two extra-base hits and leaving 11 men on base. They scored the decisive second run on a tricky judgment call that went bad for Texas third baseman Ramon Vazquez.
In the bottom of the fifth, Manny Ramirez stepped to the plate with Youkilis and David Ortiz in scoring position. On the fifth pitch from Rangers starter Jamey Wright, Ramirez clubbed a hot shot up the middle, which Wright deflected by orchestrating a kick save with his right foot.
The ball flew to Vazquez, who gloved it, turned left and hesitated before tagging Ortiz for the third out. Home-plate umpire Andy Fletcher ruled that Youkilis scored before the tag. If Vazquez had simply opted to throw out Ramirez at first, the force would have prevented the run.
But, Texas manager Ron Washington said, "Is he certain that Manny is not going to beat it?"
"I didn't think I had a chance at first base," Vazquez said. "When I saw Ortiz in front of me, I had to get the out. I tried to tag him as quickly as possible. If I go to first base and he's safe, it's runners on first and third with [J.D.] Drew up."
On Friday night, the Rangers were down. And Boston's pitching was just a little bit more exciting.
"It's a good win for not only our team," Papelbon said, "but it's a good show by our bullpen, for sure."
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.