Sox's watered-down lineup no match for Doc
Offense notches just three hits as losing skid hits six games
BOSTON -- Fronting a lineup that looked more suited for a split-squad Spring Training game, Tim Wakefield, bad back and all, gamely took the mound opposite Roy Halladay and the Blue Jays on Wednesday night.
In what were both pitchers' final starts of the regular season, Toronto's ace stole the spotlight, throwing a three-hit complete-game gem as the Blue Jays cruised to a 12-0 series-sweeping victory in front of 37,246 at Fenway Park.
Wakefield, hampered by a lower back strain which landed him on the disabled list from July 18 to Aug. 26, lasted just three innings, allowing five runs on seven hits, including two home runs, and two walks with two strikeouts.
Less than 24 hours after clinching their third consecutive playoff spot -- when the Angels beat the Rangers in Anaheim in the early hours of Wednesday morning -- the Sox extended their losing streak to six games, matching their longest losing streak of the season for the second time. It was also their eighth loss in the past 10 games.
"We all like our record to be as good as it can be," said Sox manager Terry Francona. "It's not going to affect next week. Still, terrible night. And we always want to play well regardless of who pitches or who plays. That didn't happen tonight. [We] don't ever try to lessen how we feel about a loss. That's a tough night. Anytime we get to Dusty Brown pitching, that's a tough night."
Indeed, Brown, a catcher who has appeared in four games for the Sox this season and is still in search of his first big league hit, pitched the ninth inning.
Wakefield took the loss, dropping his record to 11-5 with a 4.58 ERA, snapping his 13-game home unbeaten streak, dating back to Sept. 12, 2008. In four starts since coming off the DL, he is 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA.
The Jays started their damage in the second inning. Randy Ruiz and Travis Snider opened with singles off Wakefield, advancing on John McDonald's sacrifice bunt to the first-base side of the mound. Ruiz would scamper home on Jose Bautista's groundout to Jed Lowrie at third and Snider scored on Aaron Hill's single to left.
The Jays added three more runs in the third, as Lyle Overbay belted a two-run homer around Pesky's Pole in right field, and Ruiz's one-out solo shot gave Toronto a 5-0 lead. Wakefield got Snider to pop out to Alex Gonzalez at short before hitting McDonald with a pitch. After striking out Bautista to end the third, the knuckleballer's night was over.
"It was tough," Francona said of Wakefield's outing. "I think we all saw on [McDonald's] bunt -- trying to reverse direction, you can see how much it's hurting him or limiting him. I thought after that play he was dragging a little bit in his delivery. He'd thrown a lot of pitches. He wanted to stay in and pitch, which I respect a lot. I didn't think that was in his best interest. So we got him out of there. I think he was at  pitches after three. That's a lot and he looked like he was feeling it."
"I don't want to give up on the team, regardless if I'm 60 percent," Wakefield said. "I feel like I'm needed. The staff has made it clear that I'm needed to be out there, and I'm going to go out there at 40 percent if I have to. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough tonight and 'Doc' pitched a great game for them."
Halladay (17-10, 2.79 ERA) kept the Sox hitless until Joey Gathright's one-out single to left in the sixth inning. Halladay, who threw his Major League-best ninth complete game and fourth in six September starts, threw 100 pitches, 68 strikes, also recorded six strikeouts and issued just two free passes.
"Just tried to stay inside the ball," said Gathright, who started in center field for the Sox and recorded two of the club's three hits. "I know what he's going to do. I've faced him a few times. He's done the same thing. It was just a matter of getting lucky and getting a hit."
Halladay also hit a batter -- David Ortiz (who, with Gonzalez, represented the Sox's regulars in the starting lineup) in the second inning.
"I don't think he was trying to hit him," said Jays manager Cito Gaston. "Wasn't trying to hit him."
Fernando Cabrera replaced Wakefield to start the fourth inning. In Cabrera's one-plus inning of work, he gave up three runs on three hits and two walks.
In the fifth, Cabrera allowed the first three Jays he faced to reach base. Ruiz opened with a double, Snider walked and McDonald's single scored Ruiz, ending Cabrera's evening.
Dustin Richardson, who was called up Monday to make his Major League debut, replaced Cabrera, going one inning and giving up a hit and a walk, with a wild pitch and a balk. He was followed to the mound by Manny Delcarmen, Hunter Jones, Hideki Okajima, and finally, Brown.
"We're trying so hard to keep our pitching not only in order, but strong going forward," Francona said. "We got to the bullpen so early, Cabrera hadn't pitched in a game in three weeks and we didn't want to leave him out there longer. We certainly have aspirations on getting our guys in order for next week. At the same time we have obligations to guys that haven't been here not to hurt them either. The innings were getting lengthy. We didn't want to pitch [Daniel] Bard tonight in a game where we're down more than a touchdown. That doesn't make a lot of sense, so we suck it up and take our beating."
Delcarmen came in for the sixth, giving up a one-out solo homer to Ruiz, followed by a Snider triple and McDonald single, before getting two more outs, giving the Jays a 10-0 lead.
Jones entered in the seventh, as the Sox shook up their alignment even more than it originally was, with Rocco Baldelli moving from right field to third base, the first time in his career playing any infield position.
"We wanted to get 'Gonzie' out of there and we were out of players," Francona said. "[Nick] Green's not ready to play yet [because of an ailing right leg] and I really didn't want to have to play 'Gonzie' tonight to begin with. But once we got down that much, I don't think you ever want to put someone in a position they're not comfortable with and have the game be decided. It looked like to me that the outcome was not in doubt anymore."
The appearance of Brown on the mound in the ninth set a new, if dubious, record for the Sox: He was the team's third position player to pitch this season, joining Green on Aug. 27 against the White Sox and Jonathan Van Every on April 30 vs. the Rays, an all-time team high. Brown is also the first catcher to pitch for the Sox.
Brown gave up a run, before striking out Ruiz -- who went 4-for-6 with four runs scored, two RBIs, two home runs and a double, falling a triple shy of the cycle -- swinging on an 84-mph fastball.
Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.