Wakefield looks to continue mastery

Wakefield looks to continue mastery

There are teams (the Texas Rangers, to date) who have hammered Tim Wakefield's knuckleball. There are others (the Blue Jays) against whom the Red Sox's 40-year-old wonder has maintained a standard of sterling consistency.

And then there are the Devil Rays. With numbers like these (15-2, 2.91 ERA, .211 opponents' batting average), Wakefield could consider a second career as a Bay Area bogeyman, inhabiting closets and crawl spaces and haunting Rays fans for years to come. That is, if his current career ends.

On Wednesday, Wakefield will take the hill against the struggling Devil Rays in the Red Sox's annual Independence Day game.

Celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks and day baseball is an annual American tradition. Watching Wakefield, who resides in Melbourne, Fla., flummox the Tampa Bay bats is something more routine -- it typically happens between three and five times per year -- but just as time-honored.

Taking his first loss last year against the Rays since April 1999 didn't change that. In three starts against Tampa in 2006, Wakefield averaged seven innings and two runs allowed.

With the Boston Pops slated to play their annual Fourth of July concert on the Boston Esplanade on Wednesday night, fans are advised to seek alternate routes or use public transportation. The eastbound and westbound lanes of Storrow Drive are closed until Thursday morning and various parts of Memorial Drive will close Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Tim Wakefield (8-8, 4.31 ERA)
On April 20 against the Devil Rays last year, Wakefield allowed two earned runs in eight innings. The start was significant for another reason: It was his first loss against Tampa since April 16, 1999, when he was a spry 32 years old. Nevertheless, Wakefield's performance record is so strong against the Devil Rays perhaps because of his comfort under the dome of Tampa's Tropicana Field, where he has a 2.39 ERA in 83 career innings (against a 3.46 ERA in 78 innings against the Devil Rays at Fenway Park).

TB: RHP Edwin Jackson (1-8, 6.88 ERA)
A former top prospect in the Dodgers organization, Jackson's star has faded after registering a 6.02 ERA in parts of five big-league seasons. But Jackson is still just 23 years old, and his strong performance of late (three earned runs in his last 12 innings, including his first win in two seasons) suggests that his best may yet be ahead of him.

Player to watch
Wakefield has allowed seven hits in 45 at-bats (.155) against members of Tampa's Tuesday starting lineup not named Carl Crawford. The Rays' lone All-Star has a .328 (20-for-61) career average with two home runs and eight RBIs against Wakefield. Crawford has also stolen seven bases off Wakefield, taking advantage of a notoriously deliberate delivery.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• NESN

On radio
• WEEI 850, WROL (Español)

Up next
• Thursday: Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 11-2, 3.38) vs. Devil Rays (J.P. Howell, 1-2, 5.19), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: Red Sox (Julian Tavarez, 5-6, 4.39) at Tigers (Andrew Miller, 3-2, 3.81), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Red Sox (Kason Gabbard, 2-0, 5.79) at Tigers (Jeremy Bonderman, 9-1, 3.58), 7:05 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.