Wakefield disappointed with outing
Knuckleballer makes no excuses after yielding five runs
BOSTON -- Since 1995, Tim Wakefield and his knuckleball have claimed residence at Fenway Park. Only Jason Varitek -- who came to Boston in July 1997 -- is even close to Wakefield in terms of service time with the team.
Therefore, nobody would have been prouder to tie the American League Championship Series vs. the Rays on Tuesday night at 2-2 than Wakefield. And you can bet that nobody was more disappointed with the way it turned out.
Quite simply, Wakefield didn't have it and never found it. The result was a 13-4 loss that pinned the Red Sox into a 3-1 hole in the ALCS against those surging Tampa Bay Rays.
Wakefield, who wasn't in the AL Division Series rotation vs. the Angels, was making his first start since Sept. 28. But there would be no excuses after the 42-year-old veteran was pounded for six hits, five runs and three homers over just 2 2/3 innings.
"No, I'm not going to stand here and make excuses," said Wakefield. "I prepared myself as best as I knew how and threw some side [sessions] and threw some simulated innings. I didn't have it tonight."
What disappointed Wakefield most is that his team was never on an even playing field in this one. In the first inning, Wakefield gave up a two-run shot to Carlos Pena and then a solo shot to Evan Longoria.
The thing about Wakefield is that he can get it back just like that. And that's what he did in the second inning and, seemingly, the third. Yes, the third was painful.
Tim Wakefield vs. Rays 1998-2007
Tim Wakefield vs. Rays in 2008
Wakefield had two outs and nobody on, then Carl Crawford tapped a roller between the mound and the first-base line. The knuckleballer dove for the ball and stopped it, taking a face-plant to boot. But his shovel throw to first was too late.
Next thing you know, Willy Aybar hammered a two-run homer and it was 5-0. After a single off the wall by Dioner Navarro, Wakefield's night was over.
"In the third inning, he's four pitches in, gets two outs, [an] 0-2 count, then the squibber, then a home run," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "In a night that was filled with a lot of things that didn't go right, that was a huge turn in the game for us."
Wakefield likely will feel every bit his 42 years old when he wakes up on Wednesday. The fruitless dive left him with a stiff neck.
"It wasn't a smart thing for me to do," Wakefield said. "I was trying to make a play. The next hitter, I gave up another homer. That was it for me. I jammed my neck pretty good, but I'm not making excuses. I just made a bad pitch to Aybar."
While Wakefield has had his moments of glory in LCS play -- most notably for the Pirates in 1992 and the Red Sox in 2003 -- the postseason has not been kind to him of late.
In four postseason starts dating back to Game 1 of the 2004 World Series, Wakefield is 0-3 with a 10.47 ERA.
But all Wakefield was thinking about Tuesday was the most recent struggle.
"It hurts," Wakefield said. "Obviously, down, 2-1, you want to even the series up as much as possible. I put us in too deep of a hole."
Even in defeat, Wakefield demonstrates a measure of class that is appreciated in the clubhouse.
"He wasn't using any excuses -- rust or anything like that," said Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin. "He's been throwing on the side. He's prepared. He's going to go out there and give it his all. And that's what he did. Yeah, he got beat. He'll stand in front of you and have his head up and face whatever he's got to face. That's how he is."
Now, Wakefield just hopes that it wasn't his final act of 2008.
He watched the Red Sox overcome a 2-0 deficit twice in the best-of-five ALDS -- 1999 and 2003. He remembers the historic 3-0 comeback in the '04 ALCS and the climb back from 3-1 just a year ago.
Of all the players on the Red Sox, Wakefield knows that crazy things can happen this time of year.
"That's a good team over there," Wakefield said. "We've got to come out on Thursday [and] play better ball all around -- pitching and offense. If we can get all the cylinders running at the same time and take the series back to [St. Petersburg], I think we'll be in good position."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.