Veteran duel goes Wakefield's way
Red Sox cash in on Cash's first homer in three years
BOSTON -- It was like a Golden Oldies night on Wednesday at Fenway Park, where Tim Wakefield and Randy Johnson performed their crafts as effectively as any young guns could have.
But those two pitchers defying their birth certificates yet again was a far more likely occurrence than the baseball that boomed off Kevin Cash's bat and sailed into the parking lot beyond the Green Monster.
"It was exciting," said Cash, who hadn't hit a homer since June 21, 2005. "I haven't really been swinging the bat well over the last four or five starts I've been out there. So it was nice to get a hold of one."
Just as you never expect Cash to be intentionally walked in a baseball game, he also hardly ever qualifies as a hitter with parking-lot power. Yet both feats occurred on a night when Wakefield (seven shutout innings, two hits) and the Red Sox upended Johnson's Diamondbacks, 5-0, in the rubber match of a three-game series.
By the time the bottom of the sixth inning had rolled around, neither pitcher had given much more than an inch. With Boston runners at second and third and one out, D-backs manager Bob Melvin ordered up the first intentional walk of Cash's career. That set up a seemingly favorable lefty-lefty matchup between Johnson and Red Sox rookie Brandon Moss.
Melvin's well-intentioned move didn't get the desired result, as Moss belted a liner to right that Justin Upton made a nice catch on for a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0, Red Sox.
"He actually took a real good swing with the bases loaded," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I thought their right fielder ended up making a real tough play not look that tough. Off the bat, that's extra bases."
Two innings later, you could at least see what Melvin had envisioned when calling for that intentional pass of Cash. This time, there were again runners on second and third, but nobody out. With reliever Juan Cruz on for the D-backs, Cash worked a nice eight-pitch at-bat before pummeling that three-run homer, which gave the Red Sox a 5-0 cushion. Talk about cashing in.
The last homer Cash hit was against one Randy Johnson at Yankee Stadium some 128 at-bats ago.
"That's something to tell the grandkids," Cash said. "Home run off Randy, and then an intentional walk [on Wednesday]. Must be a full moon or something."
Cash's main job is to catch Wakefield, and that arrangement has been working rather well of late. In Wakefield's last six starts, he is 2-2 with a 2.09 ERA.
"He was outstanding," Cash said. "The last four or five starts, he's just been incredible. He doesn't have the wins like I'd like for him to have or probably he would like to have, but he's giving us the opportunity to win a lot of ballgames this year."
Wakefield sensed a change in momentum on May 28 in Seattle, when he lost, 1-0, to Erik Bedard.
"I've really felt comfortable the last six starts, ever since that start in Seattle," said Wakefield. "[Pitching coach] John Farrell and I worked on my mechanics and figured something out, and it seems to be working, so I'm not going to change anything."
Nor should he. The D-backs tried to prepare for the game by having retired knuckleballer Tom Candiotti throw batting practice before the game.
It didn't work.
"He threw quite a few fastballs, he had that big curveball that he was throwing as well, so it's not like it was just one pitch you had to be ready for," said Diamondbacks center fielder Chris Young. "He keeps you off balance, because even though the fastball is 75 mph, it still looks a lot harder. And his curveball was tough for us to lay off of today."
Fortunately for the home team, Wakefield's knuckleball was just a tad more perplexing to the Diamondbacks than Johnson's heat was to the Red Sox.
Though not quite the epic that Wakefield and Johnson staged on Sept. 11, 2005 -- when Johnson's Yankees beat Wakefield's Red Sox 1-0 -- this one was still plenty impressive.
With a combined age of 86 years and 252 days, Wakefield and Johnson took part in the oldest matchup in any Red Sox game since Sept. 25, 1965, when Bill Monbouquette faced off against Satchel Paige. And according to Elias Sports Bureau, it was the oldest combined age of starting pitchers in the history of Fenway Park.
"I'm not facing him as a hitter, so it's kind of cool," said Wakefield. "When he was in Seattle, they made a big deal about me pitching against him. In New York, we lost, 1-0. I'm actually facing their hitters, and they have a pretty good lineup. It's kind of special, but then again, I'm facing their hitters."
While doing that, Wakefield gave up next to nothing. Johnson wasn't much more generous, scattering eight hits and two runs over six innings. Both Boston runs against the Big Unit were scored on outs.
The Red Sox were able to start a little something in the second inning. Mike Lowell led off with a single, and Coco Crisp followed with a double. With one out, Moss brought home the game's first run on a fielder's-choice grounder to second.
Wakefield (5-5, 3.88 ERA) kept it right there, opening with six innings of one-hit baseball.
Finally, the Sox added to their lead in the bottom of the sixth. Again, Lowell (single) and Crisp (double to left) were the catalysts. And after that free pass to Cash, Moss again found a way to come through.
"Any time you can go 0-for-3 and get two RBIs, I'll take it," said Moss. "The main goal of the game is to score runs. I would have definitely liked to be 1-for-3, but the whole idea is to score runs and win the game."
Ultimately, they did that, thanks in large part to a surprising burst of power from their backup catcher.
"I haven't seen it in a while, but I knew he was due," said Wakefield. "And it was a big home run for us."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.