Thursday, July 9, 2009

Another Win For Wakes

Trevor Cahill learned a valuable lesson last night; don't hang a 2-1 fastball over the plate to David Ortiz.

That mistake turned a 1-1 ballgame into a 4-1 lead for the Sox. Behind that, Tim Wakefield's strong performance and some timely defense in the late innings gave Boston a 5-4 win and the rubber match in their series with Oakland.

The win also gave Wakes his 11th win of the season. That gives him the most wins of any pitcher in the AL and solidifies his position as an All-Star (ie - no more bitching about it from losers from other cities). He went six innings and gave up three runs on 10 hits, but struck out eight and walked just one. For the sixth time in eight years, Wakes has won at least 11 games for the Sox. And this year he did it before the All-Star break. I have said this before, but Wakefield is the biggest bargain in baseball. There are 29 other teams that would kill for a #4 pitcher that earns $4 million per year and gives you double-digit wins. Never mind his 11 quality starts (good for 10th in the AL).

But for a little while it looked like all that effort from Wakefield would be for naught. Going into the sixth the A's held a 1-0 lead and Trevor Cahill looked unhittable. The Sox didn't get a hit until the fourth inning and only had that one hit going into the sixth. But then J.D. Drew worked Cahill to a 3-0 count, took a strike and then delivered the next pitch into the Oakland bullpen to tie the game at one. Although I give Drew a lot of grief (which I think is completely justified) one thing he does well is work a count.

But the real fireworks came three batters later. After an infield single by Pedroia and a walk from Youk, David Ortiz came to the plate and delivered the aforementioned 2-1 fastball deep into the right field bleachers. That made the score 4-1 and put the Sox ahead for good. That was it for Cahill and the A's.

Not that it didn't get interesting. Wakefield gave up two singles to start the seventh and came out. Delcarmen came in and struck out Cabrera. But then the game got weird when Nick Green blew a double play. Hairston popped out to first. Kotsay got the ball and then fired it to second to try and double off the runner. Nick Green had the runner beat but didn't have his foot on the bag. The blown DP seemed to rattle Delcarmen. He walked Matt Holliday and then gave up a two-run single to Kurt Suzuki. That made the score 4-3 and forced Tito to bring in Okajima. Oki got Cust to hit into a force out at second to end the seventh and then pitched a clean eighth. By this time the Sox had tacked on one more run and held a 5-3 lead.

Enter Jonathan Papelbon, who is on track for a personal best in saves but has a ballooning WHIP to go with it. He walks Kennedy and gives up a single to Cabrera that puts Kennedy on third. Then Paps gives up a moon shot to Hairston that got knocked down in center by the grace of God and a heavy wind. The result was a one-run sac fly instead of a three-run shot and Boston held the lead at 5-4. Then after striking out Holliday Paps gave up another hit before finally fanning Jack Cust to end the game and get his 22nd save of the year.

Papelbon is insisting on making every save opportunity an interesting one this year. He currently has a 1.368 WHIP, almost double the .771 WHIP he had in the championship season of 2007 and .416 higher than his 2008 WHIP. Right now it looks like that while Papelbon will increase his save total for the third straight year, he will also increase his WHIP for the third straight year. Is that indicative of future problems or just one of those quirky baseball stats? I guess we'll find out down the road. But it makes Daniel Bard a little bit more important to this team, in my opinion.

The win evened the Sox out at 3-3 so far on this 10 game homestand. Starting tonight they get the Royals for four at Fenway. If the schedule holds, the Sox catch a break and miss Zach Greinke. Tonight we get Brad Penny and Luke Hochevar. Hochevar is 4-3 this year with a 5.08 ERA, but he's also 4-1 over his last six starts. When he's on, Hochevar is a tough pitcher. But he has had trouble against Boston in the past; most recently the Sox pounded him last August to the tune of five runs and seven hits in 5.2 innings in an 8-2 win. Hopefully it will be more of the same tonight.

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