Wakefield kicks off road trip

Wakefield kicks off road trip

A riddle for Red Sox fans would go something like this: Why does Tim Wakefield, a career knuckleballer with nearly 2,500 innings to his credit, boast an ERA that is nearly half a run better indoors?

Why has he yielded 1.37 walks and hits per inning outside, and 1.22 in domes? Why are opponents hitting an astounding 36 points better against the veteran in fresh air?

Why, for that matter, was Wakefield knocked around in domes last year, to the tune of a 6.35 ERA in 17 innings?

The answer has less to do with Friday night's opponent, the Minnesota Twins, than you might think, and a lot more to do with Tampa Bay? The Devil Rays have hit .185 in 83 career innings against Wakefield at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., but scored four earned runs in five innings in his only appearance there last year.

At the Metrodome, on the other hand, Wakefield has a 4.38 ERA in 63 2/3 innings, a hair above his career ERA of 4.28. No, the Twins won't have to fight the unconquerable forces of mysterious drafts and stale air to beat Boston's 40-year-old wonder. Wakefield, it would seem, is no product of air conditioning.

The Red Sox traveled to Minnesota on Thursday night and will face the Twins and starter Carlos Silva on Friday. Silva, like Wakefield, is a pitching oddity, a starter who has built a career on otherworldly control.

In 2005, batters hit .290 off Silva, but the 6-foot-4, 246-pound right-hander had a 3.44 ERA on the strength of just nine walks this season. Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka, who normally displays great control, issued three free passes in just the first inning on Thursday.

Silva had less luck in 2006, when hitters had little trouble reaching base by any method they preferred; he had a 5.94 ERA and allowed 246 hits in just 180 1/3 innings.

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Tim Wakefield (2-3, 2.59 ERA)
Wakefield started the year hot, shutting down Texas, Toronto and Los Angeles in order. But the Red Sox have given Wakefield little run support in his last two starts, both resulting in losses. What will Friday bring?

MIN: RHP Carlos Silva (2-1, 3.10 ERA)
Silva has relatively little experience against current members of the Red Sox, despite pitching in the American League since 2004. This season, the right-handed control artist hasn't had much control, walking seven already in 29 innings, not enough to counterbalance a .308 opponents' batting average.

Player to watch
Twins center fielder Torii Hunter has two home runs against Wakefield in his career and 11 hits in 29 career at-bats.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WRKO-680 AM, WROL 950 AM (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Red Sox (Julian Tavarez, 1-2, 7.58) at Twins (Johan Santana, 3-2, 3.60), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Red Sox (Curt Schilling, 3-1, 3.15) at Twins (Sidney Ponson, 2-3, 6.78), 2:10 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 6-0, 2.59) at Blue Jays (Victor Zambrano, 0-1, 5.63), 7:07 p.m. ET

Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.