Sox stay two ahead in Wild Card race

Sox stay two ahead in Wild Card race

CHICAGO -- In their expansive history, the Red Sox have never had a perfect game thrown against them. That is still the case, though Gavin Floyd had one going for 5 2/3 innings on Saturday, his bid spoiled on a clean single up the middle by Nick Green.

Other than that, it was an imperfect day for the Red Sox, as they suffered a 5-1 defeat to the White Sox. Boston has started the holiday weekend with two losses in a row -- not the start it was looking for during this four-game series in Chicago.

Texas did Boston a favor, losing to Baltimore on Saturday. So while the Red Sox trail the Yankees by a season-high 8 1/2 games in the American League East, they hold a two-game edge over Texas in the AL Wild Card standings.

As far as Saturday was concerned, Tim Wakefield's sheer grit was the defining element for the Red Sox.

Despite obvious discomfort in his back -- something that will linger the rest of the season -- the veteran knuckleballer made a fairly effective return to the rotation. He gave up six hits and four runs over six innings, and he settled down nicely after a three-run first.

"He battled," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "That's all we could ask, especially this time of year. He kept us in the game. We were a big inning away from winning. We obviously appreciate what he does."

The one play that demonstrated perfectly what Wakefield is pitching through came in the bottom of the sixth. Chris Getz hit a grounder to first baseman Kevin Youkilis, and Wakefield simply could not field his position in time for what wound up an infield hit.

Manager Terry Francona and trainer Paul Lessard checked on Wakefield, but he stayed in the game and retired Alexei Ramirez on a flyout to left to end the inning, and his start.

Though Wakefield walked gingerly off the mound at the end of that sixth, he said that it was no different than things have been for the past several weeks.

"I didn't hurt myself," Wakefield said. "That's just the way it is. That's what it is right now."

The Red Sox will monitor Wakefield from day-to-day and start to start the rest of the season. With two upcoming off-days bunched up (Sept. 10 and 14), Francona could have the luxury of giving Wakefield more prolonged rest before he takes his next turn.

"See how I feel tomorrow, then get back to work," said Wakefield. "I'm going to do what I can do, barring any setbacks."

At least in the context of Saturday's game, Wakefield's performance was a bright spot. Not so bright was the offense, which didn't get on the board until Jason Bay belted a 392-foot solo shot in the eighth.

Floyd turned in one of the best performances of his career, allowing three hits, walking none and striking out 11 over eight brilliant innings.

"That's as good as I've ever seen him," said Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez, who has seen Floyd plenty from his years in the AL Central. "He was on from the first pitch to the last pitch. Give credit to who deserves credit."

Thanks to Green's hit in the sixth, the Red Sox ensured they would avoid infamy.

"He was throwing everything for a strike and getting ahead," said Green. "After the first time through, we started swinging early in the count and trying to get him. He was throwing everything for a strike, so he was tough."

Green has seen perfection up close, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts as a member of the Atlanta Braves during Randy Johnson's perfect game of May 18, 2004.

When Green strode to the plate against Floyd in the sixth, was he thinking about trying to stave off perfection?

"Not really," Green said. "It's one of those things, once you start thinking about that stuff, it's hard to overcome. I've been in a perfect game before, and you have to take every at-bat like you can get a hit. You can't be defeated before you get up there. Obviously, we knew he was pitching well, but you have to take the same approach you normally would."

Then there was Wakefield, who gave up a two-run single to Paul Konerko and an RBI single by Getz that fell right in front of Ellsbury to make it 3-0 in the first. But Wakefield got nasty after that, allowing just three hits -- one of which was a solo homer by former teammate Mark Kotsay -- the rest of the day.

"He settled down, and he grinded it out," Francona said. "Obviously, he doesn't feel at his peak physically. He can't be accused of not giving everything he has. Again, after giving up three early, he kept us ... he gave us a chance. Their guy was just dominant. Slider, cutter, fastball, change. He had everything. He just kind of carved us up."

How much does Wakefield feel the back when he is pitching?

"A lot," Wakefield said. "It hurts to walk. It is what it is. Basically, it's managing the pain, getting through it and being able to pitch. I was able to do that after the injection, threw a side, played catch, everything tolerable to where I could go out there and compete. Other than the first, I tried to keep us in the game as long as possible. Unfortunately, Gavin Floyd pitched a great game."

"Sometimes you just tip your hat," Pedroia said. "Those are the days like today -- just move on and get after them tomorrow."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.