Bats rise early, stay up to support Wake
Red Sox plate six in first three innings, keep scoring off Rays
ST. PETERSBURG -- From his near no-hitter in Oakland to his complete game in the first game of a doubleheader against the Twins to his masterpiece in Cleveland in his last start, Tim Wakefield has lifted the Red Sox quite a few times already this season. On Saturday night at Tropicana Field, Wakefield's teammates returned the favor.
The veteran knuckleballer needed and received steady run support all night in this 10-6 victory over the Rays.
After a 6-1 lead was slimmed to 6-5 against Wakefield in the bottom of the fifth, Boston got another wave of offense to get back in the winner's circle after losing the first two of this four-game set against Tampa Bay.
"It's always good to get some runs and get the momentum in our direction," said Red Sox catcher George Kottaras. "They kind of snuck back in the game and we, again, just had good at-bats and good timely hitting and came out victorious tonight."
Kevin Youkilis (two-run double in the sixth) and Mike Lowell (solo shot in the seventh) helped the Red Sox seize control in this one.
"The offense won the game tonight," said Wakefield. "I was lucky enough to get through five. I walked the first guy in the sixth and I was out of the game. The bullpen really picked me up today. It was nice to not pitch so well and get a win. I'm just glad that we scored some runs and gained some momentum going back on our side."
In that last start in Cleveland, Wakefield pitched seven innings and allowed just one hit, but only got a no-decision in a game the Red Sox went on to win on Jason Bay's three-run homer in the ninth. But baseball has a way of evening itself out.
"No question," said Bay. "Like I said before, he's been our most consistent guy. To go out and get the lead for him -- and it came close -- but to ultimately hold on, I don't think he deserves it any more than anyone else, but the way he's been pitching for us, it's nice to kind of get him that win."
It was the fifth consecutive game in which a Boston starter surrendered five runs or more.
"[The knuckleball] was moving quite a bit," said Wakefield. "Just mechanically, I don't think I was right tonight. I just kind of struggled trying to find my feel from the first inning on. I was able to make some good pitches when I needed to, but there in the fifth inning, it wasn't great."
It was in that inning that the Rays charged back with three runs to slice the Boston lead to a run. Evan Longoria, who is hitting .444 with four homers and 15 RBIs against the Sox this season, ripped a two-run single. This, after the slugger's backswing left Kottaras woozy earlier in the at-bat.
Pat Burrell slammed a double down the line in left, capping the damage against Wakefield.
Hideki Okajima came up big out of the bullpen, firing 1 2/3 scoreless innings. With the Red Sox holding an 8-5 lead in the bottom of the sixth, Okajima got out of a second-and-third, one-out jam, getting B.J. Upton on a popout and striking out Carl Crawford.
Leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury stole three bases to help the Sox.
Nick Green started at short in place of Julio Lugo and contributed three hits and three RBIs. Green was also involved in a blooper-reel baserunning play when he fell down trying to steal second. To complete his eventful night, Green made his sixth error of the season.
"I would say he had a busy night," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He's going to steal second, we look up and he disappeared. Then he ended up throwing the ball right about where he fell. But he was also whacking the ball all over the ballpark and made some big contributions offensively. He's done a good job."
Bay exited the game after five innings with a left ankle contusion. Fortunately for Bay and the Red Sox, the injury is not serious, and the outfielder is expected to be back in the lineup on Sunday.
After losing three of their past four games, the Red Sox got just what they wanted -- a fast start. J.D. Drew rifled a two-run double off the wall in right to give Wakefield a 2-0 lead before he threw his first pitch.
The Rays got one right back in their half of the first when Longoria -- who else? -- lined a two-out double to right and scored on an RBI single up the middle by Carlos Pena.
But the Red Sox jumped right back on Rays starter Jeff Niemann in the second. Lowell (single) and Kottaras (double) got it started, setting up Green for a two-run single off the glove of Tampa Bay second baseman Akinori Iwamura. After Green's embarrassing fall, which resulted in a caught stealing, Ellsbury reached on an error by Iwamura and then stole second. That set up Dustin Pedroia for an RBI single to right. When Green roped an RBI single in the third, Boston had a 6-1 lead.
The Sox needed all of it.
"We got on the board early," Francona said. "It's a lot easier to play that way than trying to come back. We made them go to their bullpen, which is good. Wake early was real good. He started getting some balls up. ... He was getting close to 100 pitches, balls were up. We said as soon as somebody got on, we were going to go to Oki and just try to stop it right there."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.