When Wakefield starts, it’s so predictably unpredictable. It’s the same story where you know you’ll either get the good Wakefield or the bad Wakefield; there generally isn’t anything in between. And if you get the good Wakefield, the offense would have to majorly mess up to not with the game. But if you get the bad Wakefield, it’s one big uphill battle to snare the win.
Last night we didn’t really get the bad Wakefield, but you’d never know that from a glance at his line. The knuckleball works in mysterious ways, and when it’s not on, there’s not much you can do to right the ship, especially since the only time you ever really see a knuckleball is when you have a pitcher with no other pitches except the knuckleball (and those that it facilitates, like the occasional fastball you can barely sneak in). But Wakefield’s knuckleball wasn’t bad last night. In fact, he threw it for a strike about sixty percent of the time. True, he was inefficient and let himself get too deep into counts and gave up a lot of hits, but to say that Wakefield had an off night would not technically be true.
In four and two-thirds innings, Wake walked two and struck out three. He threw ninety-three pitches, fifty-eight of which were strikes. Now, here’s where it gets interesting. He allowed seven runs on nine hits, but only three of those seven runs were earned.
Two singles followed by a triple accounted for two runs in the first, two home runs accounted for three in the fifth, and a double accounted for two more in the fifth. Wake was lifted after that, and Wheeler came in.
The four unearned runs, it turns out, were all Salty’s fault because he passed a ball. Actually he passed two balls last night, but all four of the runs were attributed to his first one, where Felix Pie struck out but reached. Salty is a catcher. He’s not supposed to pass balls ever. four runs is more than some times score in an entire game. Actually, that’s more than we’ve scored in an entire game during some of our rough stretches. And because of that, the offense had more than its fair share of work to do to come back.
At first, things didn’t look good. Our first six hitters were sent down until Salty actually homered to lead off the third; I guess in some way he knew he would do something bad and wanted to start redeeming himself early. It was a sinking fastball he read like an open book, and the ball ended up in the bullpen. Actually, Adam Jones almost fell into the bullpen when he tried to chase it down. It should have been back-to-back jacks with Drew, but thanks to Jones’s catch, alas. I guess he was determined to make one of those plays last night.
It was all good though because our next four hitters made constructive contact. Scutaro and Ellsbury both singled, and then two more singles by Pedroia, who extended his hitting streak to sixteen games and has now reached base safely in his last twenty-eight games, and Gonzalez brought in two more runs.
Two singles began the fourth. The first of those was hit by none other than Carl Crawford, who made his long-anticipated return to the lineup. Not bad; start small, then build up. But he’s got a long way to go in order to make up for lost time and subpar performance. Scutaro eventually reached on a fielding error – Derrek Lee let a ball that would have been a sure-fire double play roll right between his legs, so I guess between his error and Salty’s error, everyone got their just desserts – which allowed Crawford to score. Then Ellsbury brought in another with a sac fly. (Incidentally, Ellsbury was serving as the DH because Papi began serving his suspension, which was reduced to three games from four.)
Reddick hit a solo shot in the fifth off the right field foul pole. It was a breaking ball down and in, which is right where Reddick likes it. Of the seven home runs he’s hit in his career, five have been hit against the Orioles. We should call him up for Baltimore games more often.
With two on in the seventh, Youk singled in another run to tie the game. And so we just manufactured some runs, made good swings, and took production where we could get it. But none of it really looked like enough until the eighth, when we blew the game wide, wide open.
Salty grounded out to start things off; innocent enough. But then Michael Gonzalez lost all control. He walked McDonald, who’d come in for Drew. Scutaro singled. He walked Ellsbury. And he was replaced by Mark Worrell, who after not seeing Major League action for three years was greeted by Pedroia with a two-run double that hit the right field fence and broke what had become a tie at seven apiece. Gonzalez was, of course, intentionally walked after that. And Youk brought in two more runs with a single. Then the Orioles made another pitching change. Reddick walked, and Crawford singled in Gonzalez. Salty struck out for the second out of the inning before McDonald, batting for the second time in that frame, cleared the bases completely with a double.
Eight runs in the eighth inning and three straight swinging strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth by Morales say we won, 15-10. Wheeler picked up the win. I would have preferred 15-0 or something similarly lopsided, but I’ll take the win any day. Randy Williams got some work in. Scutaro, Salty, Youk, Pedroia, and even Crawford went two for five; Ellsbury went three for four. Any day when we play Baltimore is a great day for baseball. If we win today, we win the series.