Commentary

Wakefield doesn't have it vs. Royals

Knuckleballer allows more hits than he registers outs in ugly loss at Fenway

Updated: May 29, 2010, 3:57 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Mike Swanson, the Royals' vice president of communications, has been in baseball for 32 seasons, so when he got back to his hotel Thursday night, flipped on his TV and heard a local with a microphone in his hand dis the Kansas City lineup as "lowly," he took it personally.

So on the front page of his media notes for Friday night's game, Swanson brought up the insult, then suggested the offending party might want to do his homework, seeing how the Royals were leading the majors in hitting with a .278 average.

Actually, buying a ticket would have accomplished the same thing. The 37,945 at Fenway Park on Friday night witnessed firsthand the Royals banging out more hits, 20, in a single night in the Fens than any of their illustrious predecessors.

[+] EnlargeTim Wakefield
AP Photo/Michael DwyerTim Wakefield was charged with seven runs in the fourth inning alone.

Only once before have the Royals had 20 hits against the Sox, and that was in Kansas City on Aug. 2, 1987, when the lineup card boasted such names as George Brett, Bo Jackson, Lonnie Smith and Danny Tartabull, and an infielder named Kevin Seitzer who had the night of his life (6-for-6, 7 RBIs).

On Friday night, every comparatively modest name on new manager Ned Yost's lineup card had at least one hit. Seven players had two or more, David DeJesus had four, and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt hit a grand slam, one that ended one of the most miserable nights of Tim Wakefield's career (non-Aaron Boone division), in which he gave up nine runs on a dozen hits in 3 2/3 innings.

"I saw the same amount of hits you did and everything like that,'' manager Terry Francona said after watching his team drop a second straight game to Kansas City, 12-5. "But we were trying, shoot, not only to get through the fourth but maybe have him reel it in and go out there in the fifth. But the last hit [Betancourt's grand slam] completely obliterates the line score.

"You're trying desperately to not get the bullpen out of whack, and we end up going to them, anyway.''

Wakefield has been with the Sox so long, the next time they play a Turn-Back-the-Clock game here some future Sox pitcher will probably wear flannels once modeled by the 43-year-old knuckleballer.

But you have to go back to Wakefield's pre-Sox days -- to Pittsburgh in 1993 -- to find the only other time in Wakefield's career that he has been charged with nine earned runs. And that was in six innings.

This time, Wakefield allowed more hits (12) than he registered outs (11). The Royals had one hit in the first, two in the second, and three in the third before opening the fourth with five straight singles that wiped out a 5-2 Red Sox lead.

Wakefield, with the bases loaded, then got two outs, with Jose Guillen popping out and Alberto Callaspo whiffing, leading Francona to cling to the hope that he would be spared from going to a bullpen overheated from Daisuke Matsuzaka's walkathon the night before.

No such luck. Betancourt put one into the first couple of rows of the Monster, and the Sox were on their way to becoming a fourth-place team again, their second straight loss to the Royals dropping them behind the Blue Jays again in the AL East.

"I'm disgusted with my performance,'' Wakefield said. "Our offense goes out and scores us three runs early and gets us a lead, they get two back, then Victor [Martinez] hits a two-run homer to make it 5-2 and gave the lead right back.

"Mechanically, I think I was underneath the ball, the ball was going up in the air before it had any break, and when that happens, it's not going to have any late movement, and a good-hitting club like they are" -- How's that, Swanee?! -- "took advantage of it.''

By the end of the night, one in which fans occupied themselves with chanting "Let's Go, Celtics," and observing the eviction of Kevin Millar from owner John W. Henry's seats from next to the Sox dugout -- a prank perpetrated from on high -- the last call of the bullpen went to utility man Bill Hall, who naturally registered the only 1-2-3 inning of any of the six pitchers who worked Friday night for the Sox.

"Some kind of athlete to be able to do that,'' Francona said. "I thought I saw the reincarnation of Mike Jackson, one of my old roommates. Same delivery and everything.''

The night's one encouraging development for the Sox was the performance of Martinez, who did not start the previous three nights because of a bruised big left toe. But he returned to the lineup after a hole had been drilled into the nail to relieve some pressure; he wore some extra protection around the toe and knocked in four runs with a two-run double in the first and a two-run double in the third.

Martinez showed the same hot bat he'd had before Tampa Bay's Jason Bartlett fouled a ball off the toe Monday night. He is batting .478 (11-for-23) in his last seven games. "I hope I don't get hit there again, or you may see a grown man cry,'' Martinez said before the game. He fractured the same toe in 2006 and played two months with it.

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, meanwhile, who had five hits in the three-game sweep against the Rays, is hitless in his first nine at-bats against the Royals after taking an 0-for-5 Friday night, the fifth time Pedroia has gone 0-for-5 this season. Pedroia had begun the night with a team-best .406 career average against K.C.

The other offensive achievement of note: Kevin Youkilis walked twice more, giving him 31 for the month, one more than Yaz had in 1971. Further research by Elias Sports Bureau has Ted Williams setting the club record for the month with 34 in May 1946.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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