Wakefield pitched eight innings of shutout ball to help the Red Sox stop their AL East slide with a 7-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night. Six days after lasting just 1 2/3 innings against Texas, the 42-year-old knuckleballer gave up just three hits and retired his last 13 batters before Manny Delcarmen got the last three outs.
"Getting through eight was a huge swing from last time," Wakefield said. "It's always nice to go out in the ninth and try, but I thought the smart thing was to stop it there. ... Shutouts are nice, but the most important thing is to win the game."
Kevin Cash hit a three-run homer, David Ortiz and Jed Lowrie each drove in a pair of runs and the Red Sox improved to two games out in the AL East behind Tampa Bay. Boston had lost its previous two games on the Rays' last at-bat to miss a chance to take the division lead.
Tampa Bay's game against the New York Yankees on Friday night was rained out and rescheduled as part of a doubleheader on Saturday. Boston and Toronto will also play two on Saturday to make up for an Aug. 15 rainout, which made it even more important that Wakefield was able to go deep into the game.
"We've got a lot of baseball tomorrow," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, whose team took a six-game lead in the AL wild-card race over Minnesota. "It worked out well."
Rain threatened the Red Sox and Blue Jays, but they were able to finish up despite a 41-minute delay at the start and a drizzle through much of the game. Toronto lost for just the second time in 13 games, unable to muster anything against Wakefield (9-10), who walked none while striking out four.
"Unfortunately, we've put ourselves in must-win situations for about the last month," said Blue Jays third baseman Scott Rolen, who had two errors. "We've responded, played well but ran into Wakefield tonight. He pitched well and they got the first game. Come out tomorrow and hopefully take two."
David Purcey (3-6) allowed three earned runs and six hits with two walks in 6 2/3 innings, striking out six for Toronto. He gave up Lowrie's sacrifice fly in the second and a run-scoring double to Lowrie in the fourth and left after allowing a two-run double to Ortiz in the seventh.
"It's just something to look forward to next year with this kid," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "I think he's going to be all right. I really do."
Toronto trails Boston by 7 1/2 games in the standings, but the Blue Jays play Boston six more times this season.
"If it doesn't come out too good tomorrow, then you might be thinking, 'Well, do we have a chance to catch them?" Gaston said. "But right now we'll just go home and come back and see if we can't win a couple."
J.D. Drew, who hasn't played since Aug. 17, had an injection to treat his stiff back and left the team because of a death in the family. He will rejoin the team in Tampa Bay next week, Francona said. OF Jonathan Van Every was called up as a reserve. ... Coco Crisp extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a seventh-inning infield single. .. Sean Casey, who's played just twice since Aug. 19 because of a sore neck, is also expected to play in one game on Saturday. ... Alex Rios snapped his season-high 12-game hitting streak.