ARLINGTON, Texas -- Tim Wakefield's knuckeball was fluttering out of the strike zone during the short time he pitched, an unmemorable performance in a milestone appearance.
The Boston right-hander allowed seven runs in a span of nine batters in his 500th game for the Red Sox, a 15-8 loss at Texas on Saturday night that kept them from gaining ground in the AL East race."It was one of those days I'd like to forget," Wakefield said. "I felt physically great, mentally great. The inning just unfolded so fast."Wakefield (8-10) retired the first five batters on flyballs before Gerald Laird doubled, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a passed ball. Wakefield walked four of the next six batters after that, two of them with the bases loaded, and hit another one.Josh Hamilton then hit a two-run single and Hank Blalock followed with an RBI single to put Texas up 7-1 and knock out Wakefield after only 1 2/3 innings, the shortest start in his 14 seasons with the Red Sox."We kept trying and trying, because he had gotten two outs. But at some point you've got to make a change," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.Reliever Chris Smith immediately picked off Blalock to end the inning.Boston stayed 2½ games behind AL East-leading Tampa Bay, which lost at Toronto earlier Saturday when Gregg Zaun hit a grand slam in the 13th inning. The Red Sox remained 5½ games ahead of Minnesota in the wild card race.Nelson Cruz hit two towering home runs and a double with five RBIs for Texas after Wakefield was out of the game. Hamilton was 2-for-4 and drove in three runs to push his majors-best RBI total to 124.Texas had lost eight straight games to Boston this season, getting outscored 75-36."We finally won one," manager Ron Washington said. "In the first inning, we were hacking pretty good. But in the second we started waiting Wakefield out. The next thing you knew, he couldn't find the strike zone."Rookie right-hander Matt Harrison (7-3) struck out four in six innings and left with a 13-4 lead.The 42-year-old Wakefield joined Bob Stanley (637 appearances) as the only players to pitch in 500 games for the Red Sox. Wakefield signed with Boston as a free agent in 1995, and has since started 363 games with 137 relief appearances.The only career start that was shorter for Wakefield was when he was with Pittsburgh and lasted only an inning at Florida on June 11, 1993.Boston managed only one run despite four consecutive hits in the second. Jason Bay had a one-out double and scored on a single by Jed Lowrie. Mike Lowell, who had also singled, was thrown out trying to score on Coco Crisp's hit.Dustin Pedroia, the AL batting leader, went 0-for-3 with a walk, ending his nine-game hitting streak and dropping his average two points to .330. That is three points better than Milton Bradley, the Texas DH scratched from the lineup Saturday because of left wrist soreness.Kevin Youkilis, who missed the series opener while tending to a family matter in Boston and had played only one of five games before that because of the flu and back spasms, rejoined the team and hit his 25th homer. His three-run shot in the third got the Red Sox within 7-4.But in the bottom of the inning, after a double by Chris Davis, Cruz hit a 444-foot homer to center field. Cruz added a 417-foot shot to left in the fifth to make it 10-4.Cruz was outrighted to Triple-A Oklahoma after Texas designated him for assignment at the end of spring training and he cleared waivers. Cruz was the Pacific Coast League MVP, hitting 37 homers in 103 games before being called up by Texas on Aug. 25. He has three homers in 12 games since.The Rangers, who lead the majors with 785 runs, had been held to single runs the previous two games."That's the story of the season, we have good nights and it's one of those things where we're not going to quit as a team," Hamilton said. "We're going to ride this thing out to the end and see what happens from there."
Wakefield is the first Boston pitcher and only the 23rd in major league history with at least 500 games and 350 starts for the same team. The only other active players to do that are both in Atlanta, John Smoltz (708 games/466 starts) and Tom Glavine (518 starts). ... Boston players watching the Rays game in the clubhouse erupted in cheers and chants of "Zaunie Bench, Zaunie Bench" when Zaun homered.