By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Each time he puts another notch in the win column, Tim Wakefield takes a step closer to history.
His victory over the Blue Jays Wednesday night at Fenway Park was the 198th of his career. With two more wins, Wakefield would become the 108th pitcher in baseball history, and the 89th since 1900, to reach 200 wins.
The win also gave him 184 victories in a Sox uniform. He is now eight wins behind Roger Clemens and Cy Young for the teams all-time record.
His 96 wins at Fenway are second all-time behind Clemens 100. With each win, he also extends his lead among active pitchers.
But hes not thinking about those numbers for now.
Ill worry about that when the time comes, Wakefield said. I got to see where I fall after the All-Star break and go from there.
He went seven innings against the Blue Jays, giving up three runs on nine hits, as the Sox beat Toronto, 6-4, in the series finale. The Jays hit Wakefield early, getting six of their nine hits off him in the first three innings. But, staked to a three-run lead after the fourth, Wakefield settled down, allowing just one runner to third Travis Snider in the sixth on a double and a passed ball.
The results were obviously better later in the game, he said. I felt like I had good stuff in the first couple innings. A couple hits and they scored three runs, and after that I was able to settle down and make some adjustments.
Early on I thought that there were some balls that were up, and normally with Wake when theyre up, he gets hit, manager Terry Francona said. "He settled down, gave us what we needed. Hes been doing that. He has a way of doing that. He steps in and pitches professionally.
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was charged with three passed balls in the game, a testament to just how much Wakefields knuckleball was moving.
It was dirty tonight, Saltalamacchia said. He was probably the best Ive seen him so far. He was controlling it well and even threw a couple of curveballs, as well, that struck some guys out.
I didn't know he can kind of throw that knuckleball wherever he wants it. I didn't know that. Hopefully Im going to start talking to him and see if he can hit my glove and make sure I dont have to do anything. Like against Yunel Escobar . . . Escobar was seeing the ball, handling the ball well, so his third at-bat we decided to try and throw as far out of the way as we could . . . Escobar didnt take them and then Wakefield threw a fastball and popped him out. So its impressive that he can throw those pitches and put them where he wants them.
With the bullpen pitching a combined 11 23 innings over the last two games, Wakefield wanted to be sure he got deep into this game.
Its very satisfying, he said. I knew I had to go deep in the game today even though we kind of had some backup with right-hander Scott Atchison getting called up today when Jon Lester went on the disabled list. But the bullpens been taxed pretty heavily the last couple days. Its something that as a starting pitcher you take a lot of pride in, to get deep in the game and preserve those guys for the next series.
It was Wakefields fifth quality start in 11 starts this season. Overall, he has appeared in 20 games, starting the season in the bullpen and then being pressed into starting duty as other starters went down with injuries.
I take a lot of pride in that, he said. It was my job coming into this year. Im getting an opportunity to try to help us win, whatever capacity that might be in. Very proud of the job Ive done so far.
The job hes done is not lost on those around him.
We told him this spring that thats what his role would be," Francona said. Unlike last year, he had a chance to prepare for that, even mentally. We knew there was going to be starts. Dont know how many. Still probably dont, but its certainly nice to have a guy that can step in like that. Every time he gets a win were thrilled for him, and us.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.