Tim Wakefield was on the mound with yet another new catcher behind the plate. He was in the midst of his 201st career start at Fenway Park, but he was still in search of his first win of the year at home. After going eight innings and allowing just two runs while walking one and fanning four, it already seemed like an injustice for him to remain 0-4 at the park that helped him make history yet again.
So after eight frames, Wakefield walked off the mound of a 2-2 game, prepared to come out for the ninth, or the 10th, or however many innings it took for him to get a "W." But this time around, the team picked him up — specifically, Daniel Nava.
The young, unlikely hero?s two-out bloop single in the eighth gave Boston a one-run lead, helping secure Wakefield?s first home victory of the season, a 3-2 affair over the Orioles on Friday night.
"We played a good game," manager Terry Francona said. "We didn't knock the ball out of the ballpark or anything — besides J.D. [Drew, who hit two solo homers] — but we played good baseball. That's what we're supposed to do. ? Play the game that is in front of you."
Wakefield has weathered plenty of hard luck in 2010, and true to form, he?s just dealt with it. He didn?t complain after being told he would be relegated to the bullpen to begin the year. When plans changed because of early injuries to the starting rotation, he didn?t complain about being shuttled from starter to reliever and back again.
He didn?t complain the countless times before when he?s pitched well enough to get the win, but things didn?t pan out.
Wakefield doesn?t complain because when nights like Friday come along, they?re all the more gratifying. He doesn?t complain because he understands his role. His only job is to fulfill it.
"It's my day to pitch, and I want to try to go as long as I can," Wakefield said. "I take a little bit of pride in ? everybody's always asking, 'What are your goals?' My goal as a starter here is to give us as many innings as possible, and I was able to go eight [Friday]."
Boston?s lineup, makeshift as it may have been, was just good enough; Wakefield got a couple of home runs from Drew, one of the team?s only certified sluggers left standing, and he got a perfectly timed bloop single from a young kid with ice in his veins.
"I was throwing a lot of strikes with a lot of movement, and I think that was the biggest key — being able to last as long as I did, and I was very fortunate that J.D. got the two homers and Nava got the bloop single to put us ahead," Wakefield said.
Things work out when you focus on the task at hand instead of worrying about everything that could go wrong. Wakefield knows that. So does this team, which saw five roster players hit the disabled list in the past week alone. In fact, the 43-year-old knuckleballer has come to personify the character of the 2010 Red Sox: They may be weathered, and given the rampant injuries, the odds may be against them, but they?re resilient. And when it comes down to it, the resilience is what matters.
"Obviously, you know what's going on in our clubhouse," Wakefield said. "You have a lot of key guys who are down right now, but I think we showed you tonight that we're resilient, that we believe in each other, and we have to keep grinding it out until some of the guys get healthy and get back on the field."
Prior to Friday?s game, Francona said that the only thing this team can do is focus on that day?s game, instead of worrying about the future. In the end, that mentality is exactly what allowed Boston to persevere. They got just enough runs, they played solid defense, they got a fantastic performance from the starting pitcher.
In the end, it all spelled win.
"It's a challenge, obviously, but everyone in that clubhouse believes in each other," Wakefield said. "We know what our roles are, and we have to fill some holes that are left by injuries right now, and everyone down there is willing to accept that responsibility and keep pushing forward."
With each start, it seems as though Wakefield tallies yet another milestone. Earlier this year, he reached the 3,000 innings pitched mark. Last week, he made his 400th start as a member of the Red Sox, the most in team history. On Friday night, he made his 201st career start at Fenway, surpassing Roger Clemens for the most ever on Yawkey Way.
But as can be expected, Wakefield isn?t making too much of the countless milestones. For him, it?s not that deep.
"It just means I'm old," he said with a laugh. "I've been around a while."
He?s just doing his job.