The Boston Red Sox are off to one of their worst starts in years at 3-6. Coming in to today, that record was 2-6 and they were at risk of being swept by the Oakland Athletics. Last night, Daisuke Matsuzaka gave up five runs in his one inning of work before leaving the game with arm fatigue (he’s now on the DL), forcing the bullpen to enter the game very early. On top of that, the game went twelve innings so the Boston bullpen had to pitch 11 innings. Oh, and they lost.
Now, more than ever, the Red Sox needed a strong, deep start from Tim Wakefield. They got more than they could possibly imagine.
Wake pitched a complete game, four-hitter giving up two earned runs, but he also took a no-hitter into the 8th inning. The Sox led the game 2-0 most of the way, before opening up the score in the top of the 8th and eventually winning 8-2. So desperately in need of a win, anything to boost the team’s confidence, that Wake’s performance could be a turning point in the year.
Reporters, coaches, and players all reiterate that a poor start to the season doesn’t mean the team will struggle all season. Yes, it is only seven games, but those seven games are what set your team up, present it with confidence to win or the doubt causing teams to lose.
Good teams that start badly don’t necessarily turn it around.
Good players that start badly don’t necessarily turn it around.
Things snow ball and all of a sudden, a team or player has lost its season. That’s why Wake’s pitching performance was so incredibly good. Add that to the fact that the bullpen was in DIRE need of help. 11 innings in one night after being taxed in the previous three games as well. They needed an off-day and Wake delivered. Wake delivered as he always does.
Let’s talk about Wake, not in terms of this great game, but in terms of his career. Could he be the most underrated pitcher of all-time? His stats are not remarkable. In his career, Wake is 178-158 with a 4.32 ERA and 1911 career strikeouts.
The key stat is that he has pitched 2817 innings in his career, good enough for fifth amount active pitchers. Just look at the table to the right to see how consistently Wake has eaten significant innings for the Sox. Throughout his entire career, he has done everything Boston asks of him.
In terms of Red Sox history, Wake is one of the greatest pitchers to ever don the uniform. He is third in innings pitched with 2596. He will pass both Cy Young and Roger Clemens if he pitches his normal 180 innings this season. How’s that for good Company?
He is third in Red Sox history in wins with 165, behind those same two superstars, but just 27 behind. Given a couple more seasons, Wake could easily be the winningest pitcher in Boston history.
Wakefield is also second in strikeouts, only behind Roger Clemens. He will never be voted Cy Young. He will never make the all star game. Yet, what he does for the Red Sox cannot be counted. Maybe the greatest part of all, he has signed a deal with the Red Sox for $4 million a season with options forever. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
In this greedy era of sports, that is unheard of the Sox. The Sox have a team-option on Wake for as long as they want him. As soon has he loses his skill, the Sox can cut him without losing any money, though I’m sure they’d lose sleep.
Let me leave you with this one final thought about Wake. Looking for where Wake plastered himself in Red Sox lore? Look no farther. Back in 2004 when the Yankees blew out the Sox 19-8 in game 3 of the ALCS, who sucked up 3 1/3 innings giving up 5 earned runs to save the bullpen and the series?
Inning-eater, Red Sox savior, Tim Wakefield.