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Lowell spared a moment of defensive infamy

04.15.09 at 8:48 pm ET
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It must be something about the Bay Area. Somehow, defense has become the great enemy of perfection for teams facing the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics over the past several decades.

For a while, it appeared that Mike Lowell ‘€“ a Gold Glover who owns the highest fielding percentage of all time by a third baseman ‘€“ might join the ranks of the infamous. Through 21 outs, the only Athletics batter to reach base was Kurt Suzuki, who did so when Lowell booted a grounder hit by the Oakland catcher leading off the sixth.

Wakefield retired the next six batters before allowing a leadoff walk to Mark Ellis and then a one-out single by Suzuki in the eighth. Thus, Lowell was spared a place on the list of players whose error ruined a perfect game in which a pitcher did not allow a hit, walk or hit batter.

Lowell’€™s error echoed one made by Sox shortstop Julio Lugo in early June 2007. Lugo nearly cost teammate Curt Schilling a perfect game of his own in Oakland. Ultimately, the pitcher fell one out shy of a perfect game before A’€™s leadoff hitter Shannon Stewart rifled a single into right field.

Since 1954, there have been three instances when a pitcher completed a no-hit, no-walk, no-hit-batter game that was imperfect because of defense. All three involved either the A’€™s or Giants.

Phillies pitcher Terry Mulholland threw a no-hitter on August 15, 1990, in which a Charlie Hayes error led to the only baserunner of the game. Mulholland quickly erased the runner on a 6-4-3 double play, and so still faced the minimum of 27 batters. The Phillies beat the Giants, 6-0.

Dodgers hurler Jerry Reuss, on June 27, 1980, lost a perfect game thanks to a Bill Russell error in an 8-0 win over the Giants.

Indians pitcher Dick Bosman came withinan error of a perfect game on July 19, 1974, but he had only himself to blame. The pitcher committed the error that allowed the lone baserunner of the game in a 4-0 win over the Athletics.

According to this Wikipedia page, there are four other instances of games in which a pitcher failed to achieve perfection because of fielding miscues.

Wakefield did not add to their ranks, thus sparing Lowell an undesirable footnote in history. Instead, his day is defined more by his impact in jumpstarting the Red Sox offense with a two-run homer in support of Wakefield.

Read More: mike lowell, perfect game, Tim Wakefield,

Reaction From Wakefield’s Near No-No

04.15.09 at 7:47 pm ET
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Here is some clubhouse reaction after the Red Sox‘ 8-2 win over Oakland, Wednesday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum. Most of the talk centered around Tim Wakefield’s performance, which saw the 42-year-old take a no-hitter into the eighth inning. It was broken up with one out in the eighth when Kurt Suzuki lined a 0-1 knuckleball into left field.

Also of note regarding Wakefield’s performance was that it marked his 31st complete game of his career, and his first win in Oakland since Sept. 7, 1999, a span of eight games in which he compiled a 1-3 mark with a 4.89 ERA. Wakefield finished throwing 111 pitches, 76 for strikes. 

TERRY FRANCONA

“We needed exactly what he gave us. He poked his head in my office earlier today, in one of the moments when the door wasn’t shut, and kind of just said in passing, ‘I understand my responsibilities’, and he didn’t say it flippantly. I think after five innings he was at 39 (pitches). That’s some kind of attacking the strike zone and getting results. I’m stating the obvious by saying we desperately needed that outing from him. It was welcome. He did a great job.”

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Read More: Terry Francona, Tim Wakefield,

Hunter Jones’ Excellent Adventure

04.15.09 at 7:25 pm ET
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OAKLAND — Hunter Jones strolled into the Red Sox‘ clubhouse at 3:17 p.m. (PST), about half-an-hour after the team’s 8-2 victory over the Oakland A’s. The relief pitcher had just come straight from the airport after making a cross country JetBlue flight from JFK International Airport in New York City, which had followed another short flight from Rochester.

As Jones walked in — looking a bit weary while wearing an untucked, white dress shirt and jeans — some of the Sox players were walking out, heading to the plane they would soon share with their newest teammate, bound for Boston.

It was a day of airports, waiting, flights, and absolutely no baseball. And it was also one of the best days in the 25-year-old’s life.

It started when Pawtucket Red Sox manager Ron Johnson had to bang on Jones’ hotel room door at 3 a.m. after calls to the pitcher weren’t being answered. Johnson had to deliver the message to his pitcher — who threw six pitches for two outs in the PawSox’ loss to Rochester just hours earlier — that he was being called up to the Red Sox to replace Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was going on the 15-day disabled list with a mild strain of the right shoulder. Jones was to make his debut as a major leaguer.

Needless to say, he didn’t sleep anymore the rest of the night.

“I was up drinking coffee,” he said.

First Jones would have to catch a short flight from Rochester, before heading over to New York City for a 9:15 a.m. departure bound for the West Coast. But when the JetBlue plane Jones was supposed to be taking from JFK got held up in Richmond, Virginia, the lefty’s scheduled time to leave was pushed back to noon.

The problem was that he would need a fairly lengthy game in order to make it to the park before the final pitch. That didn’t happen. Thanks primarily to Tim Wakefields performance — carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning — the game lasted just 2 hours and 13 minutes. By the time Jones landed it was already over.

“I was trying to listen to it on XM (radio) on JetBlue, but they didn’t have it on,” Jones explained. “It was really long, but very exciting, though. It was very exciting. I couldn’t sleep on the plane. I was just really excited to be going over here.”

Jones signed with the Red Sox as undrafted free agent out of Florida State in 2005, and split his ’08 season between Double A Portland and Triple A Pawtucket, making a combined 48 appearances.

“What do you call that, the best intentions? It was a heck of an effort,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “He’s going to have an interesting day. He’s going to have a free steak on the way home.”

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Wakefield punctuates memorable day

04.15.09 at 5:51 pm ET
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Tim Wakefield closed out the A’s for his first complete game victory since Sept. 6, 2005. Wakefield allowed two runs on four hits, gave up two walks and struck out four. He threw 111 pitches, 76 strikes. Final score: Red Sox, 8, A’s 2.

Suzuki breaks up no-hitter

04.15.09 at 5:31 pm ET
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Kurt Suzuki hit an 0-1 knuckleball for a line-drive base hit in between third base and shortstop, breaking up Tim Wakefield’s no-hitter. The 7 1/3 innings was the second furthest Wakefield has taken a no-hitter, falling only behind his 8 1/3 inning stint on June 19, 2001 in Tampa Bay. It ties a June 9, 1995 game which he also went 7 1/3 innings against the A’s.

Here is fun fact for you: Stan Javier broke up that ’95 no-hitter. Six years earlier Javier faced Terry Francona in the Red Sox‘ manager’s only pitching performance, striking out. Ironically, Francona was throwing a knuckleball.

Drew adds insurance

04.15.09 at 5:13 pm ET
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J.D. Drew launched a three-run homer into the right field stands, scoring David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis to give the Red Sox a 5-0 lead, at Oakland Coliseum. The runs offer insurance for Tim Wakefield, who will enter the eighth with a no-hitter. It marks the furthest the starter has carried a no-hitter since 1995 against these same A’s. The furthest Wakefield has gone without giving up a hit came on June 19, 2001 in Tampa Bay, when Randy Winn broke it up with a single.

This would be the 19th no-hitter in Red Sox history.

Nick Green singled in Jason Bay for the Red Sox’ sixth run. It marked the first time this season the Red Sox have scored more than five runs. Jacoby Ellsbury plated two more with a two-run single.

Green saves no-hitter

04.15.09 at 5:02 pm ET
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Red Sox shortstop Nick Green made an unbelievable diving play on Jack Cust’s liner into shallow left-center field with one out in the seventh inning to preserve Tim Wakefield’s no-hitter. Wakefield now hasn’t allowed a hit through seven innings, throwing 67 pitches, 50 for strikes. The only baserunner he has allowed came when Mike Lowell committed an error on Kurt Suzuki’s sixth-inning grounder.

Wakefield has never thrown a no-hitter.

Read More: Tim Wakefield,

Francona speaks sometime between D & H and game

04.15.09 at 4:08 pm ET
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After talking to our men Dale and Holley, Terry Francona met with the media prior to the series finale withe A’s at Oakland Coliseum (courtesy MLB.com’s Ian Browne):

‘€œWe DL’€™d Dice-K. Obviously we needed to speak to him before we did something like that. Theo and I had talked last night and this morning and contrary to what Dice-K said last night, he understands it. I think sometimes guys say things when they’€™re in the [heat of battle], trying to compete. We just want him to be able to be Dice-K. Not part of Dice-K. We’€™ll put him on the DL, we’€™ll have him looked at Friday and then we’€™ll put our heads together and see what’€™s the best way we can get him to make all his starts and be good.’€

‘€œHunter Jones is en route. {wind problems on the flight]. His availability, we’€™re hoping. We’€™re doing the best we can.’€

On Lowrie, ‘€œNothing yet.’€?

Bullpen: ‘€œPap will be OK. Saito. I think Javy, we’€™re not necessarily dying to do that. Ramon. We need to get some innings out of Wake for sure.’€

Dice-K’€™s spot: ‘€œWe’€™re going to wait on that. Obviously we’€™ve got some things that are a little fluid here. The Beckett situation. With the day off, we can figure some things out as we go.’€

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Read More: Terry Francona,

Lowell goes deep, Wakefield stays strong

04.15.09 at 3:59 pm ET
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Mike Lowell took a 1-0 Brett Anderson change-up in the second inning over the left field wall, driving in Jason Bay and giving the Red Sox a 2-0 lead. In case you forgot, Lowell didn’t have a home run last season until May 5. In other news, Gary from Chapel Hill came up with this nugget regarding the Tim Wakefields success:

* – Wakefield’s .223 career average allowed in the 1st inning is the lowest in any inning (by 20+ points) in which he’s faced 1,000+ batters:
 
1st – .223 (prior to 0-3 today)
2nd – .263
3rd – .259
4th – .262
5th – .268
6th – .247
7th – .260
 
And more …
* – Each of Mike Lowell’s last 15 RBI that have come in the 2nd inning (including today and dating back to July, 2006) have come on home runs (9 of them).
 
* – Wakefield only went 6 up 6 down in the first two innings once last season (6/25 vs Arizona).  The last time he did it on the road was way back on August 7, 2005 (at Minnesota), 49 road starts ago.
Read More: mike lowell, Tim Wakefield,

Daisuke to the disabled list

04.15.09 at 3:14 pm ET
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One day after he lasted just one inning and 43 pitches against the Oakland Athletics, Daisuke Matsuzaka was placed on the disabled list due to “mild right shoulder strain”. To take his place on the roster, the Red Sox summoned left-handed pitcher Hunter Jones from Triple-A Pawtucket to reinforce a depleted bullpen.

Matsuzaka allowed five runs on five hits and two walks in his one inning of work on Wednesday. He did not strike out a batter, and showed a fastball that rarely exceeded 90 mph, topped out at 91 mph and lacked explosiveness. It is the second straight season Matsuzaka has gone on the disabled list, having spent a stint on the DL last June with right shoulder tendonitis.

The Red Sox wouldn’t need a starter until Tuesday thanks to Thursday’s off day. Justin Masterson may be the logical choice to fill the spot, especially after throwing four innings of shutout ball in relief of Matsuzaka Tuesday night. Masterson struck out six while throwing 42 of his 60 pitches for strikes. It is a move that becomes even more likely considering the recent hamstring pull suffered by Pawtucket starter Clay Buchholz.

Jones, a lefty reliever who hadn’t allowed a hit in three appearances, was attempting to make it to Oakland in time for the Red Sox and A’s series finale, but had been held up due to wind-induced flight delays.

In other news, outfielder Rocco Baldelli was not on the lineup after originally being scheduled to play due to soreness in his legs.

Also, all the players are wearing the No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson.

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka,
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