PHILADELPHIA -- A variety of circumstances led to the drought which Tim Wakefield ended with a terrific performance on Sunday. There was the back issue that limited the knuckleballer to just four starts in the second half of 2009. There was the bullpen which had surrendered his lead on four different occasions. And there was the recent switch in roles, which has limited him to spot-starting duties.
But behind Wakefield, the Red Sox rolled to an 8-3 win in the rubber match of a three-game series against the Phillies. Not only did Wakefield come up big, but so, too, did the Boston bats, leading to Roy Halladay's worst start in a Philadelphia uniform.
Nothing could get in Wakefield's way Sunday, as the veteran right-hander at last notched career victory No. 190 -- and his first since July 8, 2009 -- with eight scoreless innings.
"Very satisfying," Wakefield said. "I felt like I had a pretty good feel of everything today and our offense made my job a lot easier today, scoring a lot of runs off Halladay today."
Wakefield reeled off 102 pitches through eight and was just three outs away from his first shutout since a 4-0 victory against Randy Johnson and the Mariners on July 29, 1997. But Ramon Ramirez pitched the ninth for Boston.
"I would have [sent Wakefield back out]," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He had enough. He was tired. He said in the eighth, getting his arm where it was supposed to be, he was starting to feel it. But I certainly would have let him go back out. He said he had enough."
For the 43-year-old Wakefield had done quite enough, becoming the oldest American League pitcher to reel off at least eight shutout innings since fellow knuckleballer Charlie Hough did the same thing to the Orioles on July 20, 1992. Hough was 44 years and 197 days old at the time.
Heading into a pivotal three-game series at Tropicana Field against the Rays, the Red Sox would like to think they've built a little momentum, with five wins in their past six games, all of them coming against quality teams.
"It's been good," said Wakefield. "We played really well. Even in New York, we played decent. We played really well against Minnesota and things are starting to click for us offensively, defensively and pitching."
Halladay, who came into the game with a glittering 1.64 ERA, was belted around to the tune of eight hits and seven runs (six earned) over 5 2/3 innings. The elite righty walked two and struck out one.
It isn't very often you can call Halladay a sub.-500 pitcher. But that's exactly what he is now against the Red Sox, as he fell to 14-15 lifetime against the team he used to battle regularly during his time with the Blue Jays.
Wakefield makes history
With a win Sunday vs. the Phillies, Tim Wakefield is just the fifth American League right-hander to post a victory in at least 16 consecutive seasons for the same team.
Chicago White Sox
Chicago White Sox
Boston Red Sox
Much of the damage was delivered by Kevin Youkilis, who delivered a triple and a homer and is now 21-for-56 (.375) lifetime against Halladay.
"He's probably one of the best pitchers in the game, probably one of the best ones of the past 10 years," said Youkilis. "Sometimes that helps because you go up there more focused. If you go up with the mind-set that you're facing Roy Halladay, there's no pressure on you. There's more pressure on the pitcher a lot of times."
As for Wakefield, it was his 176th win with the Red Sox, putting him 16 behind Cy Young and Roger Clemens for the club's all-time lead. Moved to the bullpen earlier this month to make room for Daisuke Matsuzaka, Wakefield is back in the rotation for a couple of starts while ace Josh Beckett recovers from a lower back strain.
Four of Wakefield's six starts this year have been quality starts. In his past three starts, which have been over a span of nearly a month, he has a 2.08 ERA.
"That thing was dancing all over the place," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "He was great today. We got some good pitching performances the last few days. That definitely helps. Now we need to do it against Tampa Bay, try to shut them down."
The Red Sox built their lead slowly against Halladay. They got one in the second which was set up by a leadoff triple by Youkilis, and two more in the fourth, thanks to an error by Phillies third baseman Greg Dobbs.
In the sixth, the Red Sox went in for the KO against Halladay and got it, breaking through with four runs. It was Youkilis who got things rolling again with a leadoff homer.
"I think the biggest thing with him is you make good pitches, he'll foul them off," Halladay said. "He doesn't really chase a lot of balls out of the zone. You have to make really good pitches in the strike zone. Even sometimes then he spoils them. You make a mistake here or there and that's when he gets you. I think that's the biggest thing. He's pretty good at knowing the strike zone. He can foul off pitcher's pitches."
Marco Scutaro added a two-out RBI single. Wakefield aided his own cause with a sacrifice bunt that moved the runners to second and third, and that paid off when Jacoby Ellsbury's infield single up the middle brought home two runs.
"I made a couple mistakes," said Halladay. "That's a good lineup. A couple balls that find the right spots and the next thing you know you're looking at a hole. It was definitely tough because early on I was throwing pretty good. I just made some mistakes that cost me."
Despite their success against Halladay, the Red Sox have too much respect for him to be boastful.
"He may be the best," Francona said. "You have to make him work for everything. If he makes a mistake, you better hit it. But we worked some deep counts. We had a very good approach today."
Meanwhile, the Phillies came up empty against Wakefield.
"Some balls would stay in the zone and some balls would float up and away out of the zone or down and in out of the zone," Dobbs said. "Then he'd pop a heater in at 72 mph and make it look like it's 95. Not much you can do I guess when he's got it all going, when he's making it dance like that it's really tough. It's really, really tough when you don't face many of those guys. It's really different."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.