|Streaking Wakefield has decision in every game|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 27 August 2007 12:15|
Lately, they've all been victories.
The 41-year-old knuckleballer, an under-the-radar contributor to the Red Sox the past 12 seasons, has emerged as a star on a strong staff, tied with teammate Josh Beckett for the major league lead in wins.
Today, his career and his success show no signs of ending.
``I want to pitch until they tell me I can't pitch any more,'' Wakefield said.
Currently, he is 16-10 with wins in his last three games and a streak of 22 scoreless innings that lowered his ERA to 4.16.
The only other pitcher with a decision in his first 25 games since 1980 is Jack McDowell, who was 20-7 with the Chicago White Sox in 1980 before he had a no-decision Aug. 27 against Minnesota. Wakefield's next start is set for Friday at home against Baltimore.
``What's unbelievable is that he had a decision in every start,'' Boston RBI leader Mike Lowell said. ``That's unreal to me. When his ball is moving, he's as good as any No. 1 because no one knows what the ball is doing.''
The Red Sox had two frontrunners for the No. 1 job this year, Curt Schilling and Beckett. Daisuke Matsuzaka was a contender. Wakefield began spring training as the fifth starter before Jonathan Papelbon returned to his closer's role.
Now, Wakefield is one win away from matching his career high in 1998 when he was 17-8. The Red Sox, with a major league best 80-51 mark, are a season-high 29 games over .500
``The older I get, the harder I have to work in the offseason to stay healthy for a long season,'' he said. ``I take a lot of pride in staying in shape.''
Last season, Wakefield went on the disabled list for just the second time and was 7-11. Recovered from the stress fracture in his left rib cage, he allowed one earned run or less in five of his first seven starts this year.
Now he's hot again.
From June 29 until his last start Sunday he is 9-2 and has more wins than any other pitcher. In that span, he's allowed only three of his season total of 15 homers.
Equally impressive, he's made it into the sixth inning or beyond in 23 of his 26 starts.
``The most telling sign for me, for a starting pitcher, regardless of his style, is that you're job is go out and pitch innings, compile innings and get decisions,'' first-year pitching coach John Farrell said. ``And, by that definition, Tim is a leader in all those categories.''
Just ask the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
In four starts against them this year, Wakefield is 4-0 with a 1.65 ERA and a .196 opponents' batting average. He's faced them twice this month, allowing no runs and six hits in 15 innings.
Two of his probable six remaining starts should be against the Devil Rays, improving his chances of winning 20 games for the first time.
``Playing in a big market like Boston, playing on a team that's always going to be competitive, keep the competitive juices keep flowing,'' Wakefield said. ``Last year, when everybody got hurt, we were out of it by September. It's not fun to come to the ballpark like that.''
What's interesting is that Wakefield seems like a bargain compared to some other veteran pitchers.
Spurning a shot at free agency after the 2005 season, he agreed to a $4 million, one-year contract that the Red Sox could renew annually at the same salary.
Regrets? He hasn't voiced any.
And his longevity doesn't surprise him.
``It's taken a lot of work,'' Wakefield said. ``At the beginning, you're just happy to get a couple of years in. ... To make it 10 years was a huge milestone for me. I'm going to continue to play as long as I can.''
The way things look these days, that could be a while longer.
AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall in Tampa and freelance writer Joe Esse in Chicago contributed to this report.