Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Game 39 - Red Sox
Wake Me Up Before the No-No

Red Sox 7, Devil Rays 3
Record: 23-16

We come here not to bury Tim Wakefield, but to praise him. The knuckleballer went 7 innings last night, giving up three hits and one run to raise his record to 3-2 and lower his ERA to 3.31. Even better, I didn't have to watch him, which significantly enhances my enjoyment of the Tim Wakefield Experience.

I've discussed this conundrum briefly in the past. I love Tim Wakefield. I love his durability, I love his sense of team and community, I love that he's evolved into a guy who'll do anything his manager needs, and I love that he throws a weird little pitch and still manages to be a highly effective major league pitcher. Hell, he's won 119 career games, 105 with the Sox. He's only 19 wins away from third on the Sox' all-time list, and a mere 117 innings from being second amongst all Sox pitchers. He's also the Sox' all-time leader in hit batsmen, which brings us back to the conundrum: I love Tim Wakefield, but watching him pitch renders me slowly but inevitably insane.

Maybe it's because he really doesn't have any control over what happens to his flutterballs when they leave his hand, or because every pitch seems fraught with peril - especially with men on base. Maybe it's because it doesn't seem possible that a pitch traveling 60 - 65 mph can consistently fool major league hitters and I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Wake's game just looks so much different that it feels somehow untrustworthy, and the result is that I'm happy to follow the ESPN Bottom Line to get my Sox results 1 out of every 5 games.

The fact remains, though, that Timmeh's posted 534 1/3 innings with a 3.64 ERA and 7.6 K/9 IP over the last three years - really good for almost any pitcher not named Martinez, and sensational for a No. 4 starter. Just don't make me watch him pitch.

Workmanlike win for the Sox last night, though they waited until the 7th inning to blow the game open. Mark Bellhorn continues to produce, ripping his 5th homer to give the Sox their final 3 runs. Despite only batting .231, Bellhorn is 14th in the AL in OBP (.394) and 2nd in the league in walks (35). He also leads the league in strikeouts, which is a bizarre daily double. Chris Berman must hate him.

Another great memory popped up yesterday as I caught the final inning of Randy Johnson's perfect game against the Braves. TBS flashed a graphic relating the last time an opponent no-hit Atlanta - Houston's Ken Forsch turned the trick in April 1979. As the graphic appeared, I thought to myself, "Hey, I watched that game."

I was 8 years old, watching the game on TV in Huntsville, AL. When bedtime came (probably somewhere in the 4th inning or so), I pleaded with my father to let me stay up, because Forsch was going to pitch a no-hitter. Dad let me do it, surely thinking that the Braves would shortly get a hit and send me to bed. Didn't happen, and I got to stay up for the whole thing. Fathers and sons and baseball - makes you feel kind of good inside.

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