With his first strike out tonight, Tim Wakefield became just the second pitcher in Red Sox history to record at least 1700 career strikeouts. The 41-year-old veteran struck out a total of six Tigers, giving up just two hits and no walks, in eight shutout innings. That brings Wakefield's strikeout total to 1705 with the Sox, and counting.
Cy Young never reached 1700 strike outs in his legendary career with the Red Sox, and neither did Pedro Martinez, Luis Tiant, or Smokey Joe Wood. In fact, the only other Sox pitcher to reach the milestone was Roger Clemens, who fanned 2590 batters while with the Sox. It appears that Clemens mark will be safe for years to come.
Wakefield, the crafty knuckleball pitcher, dropped his ERA below four during his eight dazzling innings of work. However, he did pass Clemens in one area he probably would rather not have; he is now the Sox all-time leader in hits allowed, at 2361. Entering tonight's game, the two had been tied.
That's part of the mixed bag that you get with Tim Wakefield. You take the bad with the good.
For instance, Wakefield's 135 losses are the most in team history; his 324 home runs allowed are by far the most in team history; his 923 walks are the most in team history; and his 1177 earned runs are the most in team history. Much of that is the by-product of his longevity; if you stick around long enough the numbers pile up -- for better and for worse.
After earning his 157th career victory with the Red Sox tonight, Wakefield has an outside shot of surpassing Young and Clemens, who are tied with 192 wins apiece. He'd likely have to pitch another two seasons to do so, but for a knuckleballer that is possible. If he plays even one more season -- which seems likely at this point -- he will pass Clemens in in both innings pitched and starts, becoming the club's new all-time leader in both categories.
We may hold our collective breath whenever he starts, or when one of his knucklers flutters away from the catcher and toward the backstop. But we're used to it by now. Aren't we?
Enjoy it for what it's worth. Statistically speaking, we're watching one of the Red Sox all-time greats. And there's no doubt that we're watching one of the finest, most gracious men to have ever worn the Red Sox uniform.
Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.