I understand the circumstances of today. No matter what, don't take me out.After seven innings in Oakland, Tim Wakefield had thrown a mere 67 pitches, 50 of them for strikes. He was five outs away from being the second-oldest pitcher in baseball history to throw a no-hitter.
They were really aggressive early, and then something kind of clicked in the second or third inning. I'm not disappointed. Obviously [a no-hitter] is something that's great to try to get, but the most important thing was to preserve our bullpen.
Wakefield ended up allowing four hits and two runs, but finished with a complete game. A few people in the game thread said that if anyone on the Red Sox staff deserves to experience the joy of pitching a no-hitter -- and a no-hitter in the sunshine of a weekday afternoon -- it was Tim Wakefield.
It would be foolish to disagree. But the most important thing for me will always be that after 2003, this man -- this veteran of the Red Sox, who after loyally serving as a starter, closer, long man, and whatever other role he was asked to fill -- was terrified of being cursed as a villain, of spending the rest of his days hated by the fans he had pitched in front of for nearly a decade.
The following spring, Wakefield discovered that he had not been branded a pariah. If anything, he had truly become one of us, the suffering Nation. In the 2004 ALCS, he again put himself before the team, offering to eat innings in the Game 3 blowout so that the rest of the staff might be rested for however many games might still remain of the season. He ended up starting the first game of the 2004 World Series, at Fenway Park. And a week later, he was celebrating Boston's first World Series championship in 86 years.
Any type of win on Wednesday would have been welcome. But to watch Tim Wakefield flirt with perfection, to see him show such precision and economy for those first seven innings -- a performance that would have caused 1999Pedro to do a double take, let out a low whistle and mutter "God damn!" -- was extra special.
Wakefield's win today was his 165th as a Red Sox pitcher. He trails only Cy Young and Roger Clemens (who both have 192) in team history. I hope he can stick around for another 28 victories.