Wakefield's early struggles sink Sox
Knuckleballer at a loss to explain Rangers' six-run first
BOSTON -- Seeing pitching coach John Farrell in the first inning is never good, and for Tim Wakefield, it wasn't.
Giving up six runs in the first, Wakefield put the Red Sox in an early hole from which they couldn't dig out, losing to the Rangers, 7-2, in front of 38,062 on Thursday night at Fenway Park.
Wakefield (3-8) gave up seven runs on eight hits in two-plus innings, his shortest start since allowing seven runs in 1 2/3 innings in September 2008, also against Texas.
"The first couple hitters, it looked like the ball was in the zone and had a lot of movement and then, they were obviously looking to swing early and normally for us, Wake getting first-pitch contact is good," manager Terry Francona said. "But they strung together a bunch of hits, kind of a rarity when you see him attack the zone like that, but he just gave up so many hits."
The onslaught in the first saw the Rangers bat around and collect six straight hits, capped by a two-run homer into the Green Monster seats by newly acquired catcher Bengie Molina. For Molina, it was his first home run as a Ranger and his fourth of the season.
Texas began the inning with three straight singles by Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Vladimir Guerrero. Guerrero's single plated Young for the first run.
Coming into Thursday's game, Guerrero had a career .435 average (10-for-23) against Wakefield, with five home runs and eight RBIs.
"Talking to [Farrell] after the game, it was like I had some of the best stuff I had all year coming out of the bullpen," Wakefield said. "I'm as dumbfounded as everyone else. I looked at the tape and tried to figure out the mechanics and didn't have it tonight. Bottom line."
After Guerrero's single, Josh Hamilton hit a double down the right-field line, scoring Kinsler, and Nelson Cruz hit a two-run single to center, scoring both Guerrero and Hamilton for a 4-0 lead.
"When he's got his knuckleball working, he's hard to hit," Cruz said. "But he didn't command the knuckleball well. He was keeping most of his pitches up and that's what we were looking for."
Young's base hit, which started the rally, was highly contested by Francona. Boston's manager believed that earlier in the at-bat, Young struck out after swinging through a ball, which home-plate umpire Bruce Dreckman called a foul tip.
"I don't think he fouled it or he wouldn't have run," Francona said. "Most guys don't run when they foul it."
The Red Sox tried to claw their way back in the fourth, when J.D. Drew hit a solo home run over the Monster. After that, an infield single by Daniel Nava off Ian Kinsler's glove and Mike Cameron getting hit by a pitch put runners on first and second with one out. However, Boston couldn't capitalize as Bill Hall flew out to center and Kevin Cash flew out to right.
In Hall's next at-bat in the seventh, the same would not be true. He led off the inning with a towering home run over the Green Monster, making it 7-2.
Hall, who started at third for the first time this season in place of Adrian Beltre, has gone deep in games he's started in left, center, right, second and third.
"I was just being aggressive at the plate on that home run and got one out over the middle of the plate that I could drive," Hall said. "I was able to stay inside of it and keep it fair. I was just trying to get the inning started to put pressure on them."
While he did make an error in the third inning on a ground ball off the bat of Hamilton, Hall also made a spectacular diving grab on a liner hit by Molina in the fifth.
"I thought he made a couple of good plays," Francona said. "That is probably the position he is most comfortable and probably played there the least. Maybe not a lot this year, but it is his best position."
While Hall tried to keep Boston in the game with his bat and glove, the middle relievers tried as well, giving up no earned runs in seven innings.
Robert Manuel, Dustin Richardson, Scott Atchison and Ramon Ramirez gave up only four hits, while striking out two to keep Boston within striking distance.
"It gave us a chance. It is hard to spot a team six, that is a tough way to play, especially a good team," Francona said. "But our guys put up zeros and kept it within range. It is just a tough way to play."
Quinn Roberts is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.