Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gotta Feel Bad for Wakefield..

The old knuckleballer continues to draw the short straw this season...

I've always been a big fan of Red Sox knuckleballer, Tim Wakefield. Whom, for the most part (other than last year), gets a little overlooked. He's not as flashy or charismatic as some Red Sox greats like Pedro Martinez and he's never going to pitch 9 lights out innings like Beckett does at his best. However, what he does give the Sox is something underrated and super un-sexy - consistency. Wakefield has always been able to find a way to get the win. Fun fact: Tim Wakefield holds the third most wins by a Red Sox pitcher with (175) - behind only Roger Clemens and Cy Young. Unfortunately, the wins haven't been racking up for Wake this year. The knuckleballer currently holds a record of 0-2. However, that's hardly a fair representation of how the 44 year old has pitched. Last night was pretty exemplary of the short straw he continues to draw this season.

The return of Daisuke Matsuzaka to the Sox bumped Wakefield off the starting rotation and into the bullpen. However, after allowing 7 runs in 4.2 innings against the Yankees last night (including 5 in the first), the Japanese letdown needed the old knuckleballer to bail him out. And, Wake did just that. Coming in at the bottom of the 5th, Wakefield pitched two solid innings - allowing only 1 hit and 0 runs. All the while, the Red Sox offense woke up. Victor Martinez hit two homers and Youkilis added one of his own, giving the Red Sox a 9-7 lead. If the game ended right there, Wakefield would've gotten his first win of the year. It would've been well deserved too. Unfortunately, there was a ninth inning. In which, Papelbon allowed two home runs and the Red Sox lost 11-9.

Wakefield having a solid outing and being let down by his supporting cast has generally been the story of his season thus far. It happened most recently in Toronto, when he replaced Beckett in the starting line-up. In that game, Wake gave his team 7 innings - allowing only 3 runs and 5 hits. He also struck out 5 batters, including Vernon Wells, who has the victim of Wake's 2,000th strikeout. When Wakefield achieved the milestone, the Fenway crowd cheered and the knuckleballer emerged from the dugout to tip his cap. Did he get a win that game? No. The Red Sox struggled to muster up the offense and fell to the Blue Jays, 3-2. After the game Francona said, "He had a good knuckleball and he threw strikes...He was quick to the plate and kept the game in check. If we're scoring, that's a really good outing". That good outing gave Wakefield his second decided loss of the season.

Of course, Wakefield's hasn't been perfect this season. He's had a couple of set backs - such as his first loss to the Minnesota Twins. Wake was atrocious in that game, giving up 10 hits and 6 runs in 5 innings. However, as always, Wake has been most consistently turned in strong performances. Of the five games he's opened on the mound this year, 3 have been quality starts. On none of those occasions could his team step up and get the win. On nights when Wakefield has a solid outing (as a starter or reliever) the Sox are 1-5.

This Red Sox team is obviously out of sync. They can't get everything rolling on all cylinders. When the defense steps up, the offense collapses and vice versa. Last night it seemed as if everything would turn around. Wakefield came and settled down the defense and then the offense had an explosion. The Sox were on their way to the biggest victory of the season, yet, things fell apart. Papelbon blew it. Another win was pried away from Wakefield's hands. You gotta feel bad for the guy.

 (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

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