McAdam: Wakefield earns another precious win

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McAdam: Wakefield earns another precious win

By SeanMcAdam
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Tim Wakefield will turn 45 later this summer, and in a concession to his age, does not move as fast as he once did.

A number of injuries, including a back ailment which required a surgical procedure after the 2009 season, have slowed him some. It's part of the aging process. The pace has been taken down a notch. Even the wins don't come as quickly as they once did.

That's largely a result of a changing role, which has Wakefield mostly pitching out of the bullpen in long relief, and often only when the game has already gotten out of hand.

But every once in a while, the Red Sox call on him to make a start again, to fill in for an injured member of the rotation. They've done so three times this year already and twice now, he's pitched brilliantly.

The first time, he outpitched reigning Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez, but was left with a no-decision when the Sox offense stalled while he was on the mound.

Sunday night, both he and the Boston lineup were good enough to earn his first win of the season and first since Sept. 8, 2010, more than eight months ago.

The drought stretched across 14 appearances, the longest of his career. And like everything else at this stage, it was welcomed with more appreciation by Wakefield.

"On the personal side, every win is precious,'' he said. "But as long as the team wins . . . that's the most important thing.''

The victory was the 194th of his career, inching him closer to 200 career wins. His goal of becoming the all-time winningest pitcher in Red Sox history has likely been dashed -- he sits at 180, needing 13 more to top Roger Clemens and Cy Young and his contract is up at the end of this season with no guarantee the Red Sox will invite him to return for 2011.

But regardless of the end goal, each win can be savored now, because there is no guarantee that they are going to continue. He left to a standing ovation, and in recognition, tipped his cap.

Wakefield was extremely efficient Sunday, averaging fewer than nine pitches an inning through the first three frames. In the seventh, when he allowed a leadoff double by Starlin Castro, a long flyout to the warning track in right to Carlos Pena and a run-scoring double to Jeff Baker, it was clear that he was leaving pitches up in the zone.

Even then, after 6 23 innings, he had thrown just 75 pitches, largely saving the Boston bullpen.

"That's the thing that we all admire about him,'' said Dustin Pedroia. "We asked him to step in two or three times this year so far and every time he's come out and thrown the ball great. He's accepted the role and he's a first-class guy. That's why we all love him.''

"He was terrific,'' marveled Terry Francona. "The role's changed a little bit now, but what a lift that gives us. You throw a guy in there when somebody's hurt and he's so professional. I guess it shouldn't amaze us because he's been doing it for such a long time.''

Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves are temporary additions to the Red Sox rotation, filling in for the injured Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey. In two starts this weekend, the two combined to limit the Cubs to just two runs over 11 23 innings.

If the Sox get those kind of outings until the others return, they'll be in fine shape. In the meantime, Tim Wakefield intends to take it all in. If this is to be his victory lap, it's nice to get some actual victories along the way.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

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Ramirez, Leon homer, Red Sox beat Angels 9-4 on Papi's night

BOSTON - David Ortiz became one of the most celebrated players in Red Sox history during his storied 14-year run in Boston.

On the night he returned to Fenway to have his No. 34 take its place among the franchise's other legends, his former teammates did their part to make sure it was a memorable one.

Hanley Ramirez and Sandy Leon hit two-run homers and the Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels 9-4 on Friday to cap a night in which Ortiz's number became the latest retired at Fenway Park.

It was the 250th career home run for Ramirez, a good friend of Ortiz who was also born in the Dominican Republic. Leon finished with three hits and four RBIs.

Ramirez said he played with Ortiz on his mind.

"He's my mentor, my big brother. He's everything," Ramirez said. "Today when I saw him on the field crying, it made me cry."

He said his home run was in Big Papi's honor.

"Definitely, definitely, definitely," he said. "I was going to do his thing (pointing his hands in the air) but I forgot."

The homers helped provide a nice cushion for Rick Porcello (4-9), who gave up four runs and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory. It was the 13th straight start Porcello has gone at least six innings.

"It was vintage Porcello," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "A couple of pitches that cut his night short, but he was crisp throughout."

This could serve as a needed confidence boost for Porcello, who had been 0-4 with a 7.92 ERA in his previous five starts, allowing 47 hits and 27 earned runs.

He had command of his pitches early, holding the Angels scoreless until the fourth, when a catching error by Leon at home allowed Albert Pujols to cross the plate.

Porcello said he isn't sure if he has completely turned a corner yet after his slow start, but he has felt better in his recent starts.

"Today was a step in the right direction," he said.

Alex Meyer (3-4) allowed five runs and five hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Los Angeles scored three runs in the seventh, but cooled off after Porcello left.

Boston got out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, scoring on an RBI double by Xander Bogaerts and then getting two more runs off wild pitches by Meyer.

Ramirez gave Porcello a 5-1 lead in the fourth with his two-run shot to right field.

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

BOSTON —  The Red Sox have become well known for their ceremonies, for their pull-out-all-the-stops approach to pomp. The retirement of David Ortiz’s No. 34 on Friday evening was in one way, then, typical.

A red banner covered up Ortiz’s No. 34 in right field, on the facade of the grandstand, until it was dropped down as Ortiz, his family, Red Sox ownership and others who have been immortalized in Fenway lore looked on. Carl Yazstremski and Jim Rice, Wade Boggs and Pedro Martinez. 

The half-hour long tribute further guaranteed permanence to a baseball icon whose permanence in the city and the sport was never in doubt. But the moments that made Friday actually feel special, rather than expected, were stripped down and quick. 

Dustin Pedroia’s not one to belabor many points, never been the most effusive guy around. (He’d probably do well on a newspaper deadline.) The second baseman spoke right before Ortiz took to the podium behind the mound.

“We want to thank you for not the clutch hits, the 500 home runs, we want to thank you for how you made us feel and it’s love,” Pedroia said, with No. 34 painted into both on-deck circles and cut into the grass in center field. “And you’re not our teammate, you’re not our friend, you’re our family. … Thank you, we love you.”

Those words were enough for Ortiz to have tears in his eyes.

“Little guy made me cry,” Ortiz said, wiping his hands across his face. “I feel so grateful. I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to have the career that I have. But I thank God even more for giving me the family and what I came from, who teach me how to try to do everything the right way. Nothing — not money — nothing is better than socializing with the people that are around you, get familiar with, show them love, every single day. It’s honor to get to see my number …. I remember hitting batting practice on this field, I always was trying to hit those numbers.”

Now that’s a poignant image for a left-handed slugger at Fenway Park.

He did it once, he said — hit the numbers. He wasn’t sure when. Somewhere in 2011-13, he estimated — but he said he hit Bobby Doerr’s No. 1.

“It was a good day to hit during batting practice,” Ortiz remembered afterward in a press conference. “But to be honest with you, I never thought I’d have a chance to hit the ball out there. It’s pretty far. My comment based on those numbers was, like, I started just getting behind the history of this organization. Those guys, those numbers have a lot of good baseball in them. It takes special people to do special things and at the end of the day have their number retired up there, so that happening to me today, it’s a super honor to be up there, hanging with those guys.”

The day was all about his number, ultimately, and his number took inspiration from the late Kirby Puckett. Ortiz’s major league career began with the Twins in 1997. Puckett passed away in 2006, but the Red Sox brought his children to Fenway Park. They did not speak at the podium or throw a ceremonial first pitch, but their presence likely meant more than, say, Jason Varitek’s or Tim Wakefield’s.

“Oh man, that was very emotional,” Ortiz said. “I’m not going to lie to you, like, when I saw them coming toward me, I thought about Kirby. A lot. That was my man, you know. It was super nice to see his kids. Because I remember, when they were little guys, little kids. Once I got to join the Minnesota Twins, Kirby was already working in the front office. So they were, they used to come in and out. I used to get to see them. But their dad was a very special person for me and that’s why you saw me carry the No. 34 when I got here. It was very special to get to see them, to get kind of connected with Kirby somehow someway.”

Ortiz’s place in the row of 11 retired numbers comes in between Boggs’ No. 26 and Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.