Once again, Wakefield was left without an answer for the Yankees, and the Red Sox were soundly beaten, 9-5, in the Friday night opener of this three-game series. Wakefield has pitched three times against the Yankees in 2007, going 0-3 with a 10.93 ERA. In eight starts against everyone else, he is 5-3 with a 2.50 ERA.
Why the disparity? Wakefield didn't have an answer for that. He could only speak about this frustrating night.
"I just didn't have it tonight," Wakefield said. "I couldn't throw strikes, couldn't throw my fastball for strikes and pretty much stunk it up tonight. And I am embarrassed about it and disappointed in my outing."
It was clear early that Wakefield's knuckler was on the unpredictable side. And that's why he didn't last long. The veteran was touched up for eight hits and five runs over 3 2/3 innings. He walked six and struck out two.
"We're into the fourth inning and I think he had already gotten over 80 [pitches]," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "So that's a good indication that something's not going according to plan. A lot of deep counts, a lot of walks, some hit batsmen, some hits."
For the Red Sox, it gave them successive losses, something Francona's team hadn't done since April 23-24 against the Blue Jays.
The Yankees came in as the desperate team and played like it, strong-arming the Red Sox enough that Chien-Ming Wang was granted time to settle down after some early trouble. The Red Sox still lead their rivals by 12 1/2 games in the American League East.
The Yankees came in as AL East cellar dwellers, but vaulted ahead of the Devil Rays and into fourth place.
"I don't think the New York Yankees are ever a last-place team," said Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "They've got too much potential to be a last-place team."
The loss was literally painful for the Red Sox with both Mike Lowell (left hand contusion) and J.D. Drew (right hamstring) exiting early with injuries. Lowell's injury occurred when he was plunked on the left hand by a Wang fastball. Both players are day-to-day. On the positive side, Youkilis extended his hitting streak to 23 games and Dustin Pedroia continued his recent torrid pace with hits in his first three at-bats.
Things got contentious late in the bottom of the ninth, as Youkilis ducked out of the way of a pitch that appeared headed for his head, absorbing Scott Proctor's heater on the left arm.
Youkilis was furious and took his helmet off and let his feelings be known to Proctor. Both benches briefly emptied, but no altercation ensued. Yankees catcher Jorge Posada followed Youkilis to first base to let him know the pitch had no intent.
"It's gonna happen every once in a while," Youkilis said. "I get hit all the time. It's gonna happen. But you're never happy if the ball's coming at your head."
Proctor was immediately ejected. David Ortiz then singled to right against Ron Villone. Even with a six-run lead, the Yankees went to ace closer Mariano Rivera. Manny Ramirez lined a single off the Green Monster to make it 9-4. Wily Mo Pena cut the deficit to four with a fielder's-choice groundout. But it would get no closer.
The Red Sox simply had too big a hill to climb in this one, getting put on their heels early.
Robinson Cano banged a two-run homer to right with one out in the top of the second. Following the homer, Wakefield surrendered a double and three straight walks to force in a run, putting the Red Sox in a 3-0 hole.
At least early, the Sox looked primed to stay in this one against Wang. Julio Lugo (fielder's-choice RBI) and Ortiz (RBI single to left) chipped the deficit to 3-2 in the bottom of the second. Red-hot Pedroia tied it an inning latter by slamming an RBI double to left against Wang.
"The way we had worked Wang, we thought we had a chance," said Francona.
But any momentum built up by Boston was short-lived. The Yankees busted it open in a six-run fourth. For Wakefield, the inning was a complete nightmare. His knuckleball danced all over the place, so much so that trusted batterymate Doug Mirabelli could not get a handle on it. There were two passed balls, a wild pitch, and a hit batter. Kyle Snyder came on in relief and hit Alex Rodriguez, which set up Posada for a three-run double.
"I've got to pitch better than I pitched tonight," said Wakefield.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.