The Sox have basically said these games don’t matter. They can read the standings in the paper as well as we can. They know that a loss in these games probably won’t end their season. They admitted as much when they put Youkilis on the DL. Basically, they were prepared to lose a few games in August. So, would it be a stretch to say that getting Tim Wakefield his 200th win is a top priority?
It certainly has looked that way lately. Francona’s quick hook in Wake’s last start screamed it. Wakefield has been in rougher spots than that before, and stayed in the game. But, he had a slim lead. It sure looked like Francona was trying to save him from himself. He knows it’s possible that the knuckleball can go away quickly. If it’s just a matter of keeping a game close, he can live with that. But, in his last game, Wake had to keep the lead. He wasn’t going to be around long enough to benefit from keeping it close. So, Francona used the hook. It sure looked like the bullpen wasn’t quite ready to come into the game. Did Francona call for them sooner than he’d like? Did he call for them sooner than they’d like?
Then Francona monkeys with the rotation just a bit by inserting Andrew Miller. Sure, this could just be a way to give all the starters an extra day as we get late into the season. Sure, it could just happen to push Wakefield’s next start to Fenway. But, if adding Miller had pushed Wake’s start from Fenway to Texas, instead of the other way around, I can’t imagine it happening.
Is Wakefield pressing? I’m sure he is. But, if he’s throwing the knuckler too hard, it’s not as effective. Is he getting to the sixth inning with a lead, and just amping it up too much?
I’m sure 200 will come very soon. And, I can imagine that after that, Wakefield’s next starts will be much easier.
For Wakefield, and the Sox.