By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
SEATTLE The mythic sentiment and romantic chase in securing another career milestone probably wore off for level-headed Tim Wakefield about two weeks ago.
The 45-year-old knuckleballer freely admitted earlier this month that notching 200 career wins was an important milestone in his noteworthy baseball body of work, and its an important piece when considering exactly why the pitcher is still active as the oldest player in all of Major League Baseball.
That little fact of Wakefield's life really hasnt changed at all.
But now that the creaky right-hander has come up empty in four straight starts for the Sox looking to bathe in a little baseball immortality, the quest for win No. 200 seems much more like a trip to the dentists office that Wakefield just wants to get out of the way as quickly as possible.
On a day when the Sox dropped to a game ahead of the the idle Yankees amid a dreary rain-out in the Bronx, Wakefields focus was trained much more on dropping a game than hoisting another milestone trophy on his mantle. Wake ended up notching his 33rd career complete game in defeat a good, healthy number for the current era of baseball but a far cry from the mind-blowing 275 career complete games spun by Cy Young during his Red Sox career.
The only hard hit ball against the knuckler in eight innings was the solo homer cracked by Casper Wells in the sixth inning, but all that mattered was the final result thats been the same in three out of his last four starts. There have been some nice consolation prizes, but the big enchilada has escaped Wakefield.
Im just trying to go out there and give quality starts and quality innings, said Wakefield. The results arent what I wanted it to be, but I was able to go out there and give eight innings. Id like to get it out of the way, but winning 200 isnt weighing on my mind to the point where Im pressing.
Wakefield was reminded by the traveling Sox media about the troubles that Hall of Fame left field legend Carl Yastrzemski had in securing hit No. 3000 at the ripe age of 40 as he went hitless in 13 straight at bats before finally nabbing it with a ground ball dribbler against the Yankees.
It was somewhat mockingly referred to as Yaz Watch by the Knights of the Keyboard more than 30 years ago, and Wakefield was looking to avoid his personal quest going down in the same fashion.
Is there a Wake watch now? asked a bemused Wakefield.
Wakefields latest speed bump on the way to 200 wins arrived in Seattle on Sunday afternoon as he pitched a complete game, but allowed nine hits and five runs in a 5-3 loss at Safeco Field.
The Sox never held the lead in the game, and an iffy safe call at second base in the bottom half of the third inning on a Jed Lowrie force play assisted in things getting out of hand for both Wakefield and the Sox.
It all started with a full count, leadoff walk to Casper Wells as so many troublesome rallies do, and then it all went south from there. A pair of singles by Jack Wilson and Kyle Seager plated a single run, and then Ed Hickox totally butchered a force out at second base on an Ichiro grounder that really flung the run-scoring doors open for the Mariners.
I dont even know how it all unfolded," said Wakefield, who seemed stunned that the official scorer slapped Lowrie with an error on a double play ball. "A leadoff walk that I thought was strike three, and after that I was just trying to survive. They ended up scoring three runs.
Wakefields catcher, on the other hand, was still running pretty hot about the pair of calls that went against the Sox in the first few innings and contributed to a 3-0 deficit. A seemingly harmless Dustin Pedroia grounder in the first inning that pulled first baseman Mike Carp off the bag was called out without a peep from the Sox dugout, but the Sox backstop noticed it all.
I thought Wakefield threw the ball well," Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. "He had one inning . . . well, its hard to explain. He had one inning where nothing seemed to go right for us. Its one of those things where it was obvious that Jed Lowrie turned two and had the guy at second. Pedroia was safe at first in the first inning in my opinion, so there were a couple of things that kind of aggravated me a little bit.
Wakefield was happy with the way his knuckleball danced in the crisp Pacific Northwest air, but he also knows that its less about individual achievements and more about results at this late date in the season. Hes now 0-2 with a 4.08 ERA with 19 strikeouts in the four starts where hes come up short of win No. 200, and the double century mark admittedly danced in his head the first couple of starts after 199.
In the first couple of starts yeah I was thinking about it," Wakefield said. "But now Im just trying to pitch quality starts and quality innings to help get us wins. Its getting to be the time of the year when its time to win games.
The Wakefield quest for 200 wins continues next week in Kansas City with a tilt against the Royals, so stay tuned for the next chapter: it will bring either adulation or frustration to the elder statesmen of Major League Baseball.
It might also bring a conclusion to Wake Watch 2011.