Wakefield was not the center of attention, however, as Jacoby Ellsbury hit a game-winning home run long after the knuckleballer departed a tie game, relegated to a no-decision.
However, there were too many positives to feel as if something was missing.
"Yeah, I was satisfied," Wakefield said after allowing three runs on just five hits in 6 2/3 innings of the 4-3 victory. "I had good stuff again tonight, and I was able to limit them to just one big inning when they scored the two runs. Other than that, I kept us in the game into the seventh inning. We won. That's the biggest thing. We won."
"We" did win. He did not, but nobody can say that Wakefield is backing into this thing. In his two cracks at becoming the 111th pitcher in baseball history to attain the milestone, the only 45-year-old in the game has yielded six runs on eight hits in 13 2/3 innings, striking out 11 in the process. Since effectively joining the rotation on a full-time basis at the end of May, more than half of his starts have been of the quality variety.
"I've felt good all year," he said. "I had that one little stretch, that two or three starts, where it wasn't working as well as I wanted it to. And I've been able to make some adjustments from there, and get quality innings."
On Wednesday, he — along with the sellout crowd that came to see him achieve history — was hoping he would that final one-third of a quality inning.
Wakefield entered the seventh inning with a 3-2 lead. Boston had double-barrel action in the bullpen. A leadoff double by Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall put Wakefield in immediate danger, but he rebounded to get the next two outs, including a strikeout of Lou Marson, the 2,121st of the right-hander's career.
Two pitches later, the lead was gone. Cleveland's leadoff man, Ezequiel Carrera, lined an RBI double into the corner in right. At 101 pitches, Wakefield was in a tie game, but just one out from turning it over to an offense that is just always a swing away from reclaiming the advantage. That out would have to be made by another individual, and the last-gasp chance for Wakefield to reach 200 was lost in a two-out pitching change.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona heard a few boos as he took the ball from Wakefield, who glanced out at the bullpen in an inquisitive way.
"I was hoping I would stay in for one more hitter, but I don't make the decisions here," he said.
Francona's maneuver was justified when lefty Randy Williams got the final out of the seventh and all three in the eighth. The skipper knew it was unpopular, but he also knew it was right.
"It's hard. I know what's riding on the game and for him personally but you kind of have to do what you think's right to win the game," Francona said. "Everybody's pulling for him to get the win, including myself, and he really pitched well."
That he did, and because of it the Red Sox got to celebrate — just not in the way everyone had envisioned when the night began.
"The win's the important thing, and I'm sure if you ask him he'll tell you the same thing," said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "It's an important milestone and we're looking forward to him getting it."
The next effort will come Tuesday in Minnesota, or Monday if the team needs to use up Andrew Miller in the bullpen before that date. Whichever day it is, the Red Sox will be prepared for a celebration.
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