Rays fall to Wakefield in Sox opener
Lack of offense wastes another strong start by Shields
BOSTON -- Facing one of their all-time nightmares with no sleep brought predictable results to the Devil Rays on Monday night in a 3-0 loss to the Red Sox in front of a sellout crowd of 36,808 at Fenway Park.
Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield started for the Red Sox, bringing with him a 17-2 career mark and 2.96 ERA against the Rays. Not only were they facing one of their greatest nemeses, the Rays went to work 12 hours after turning in the night before, as the team charter from Texas did not land in Boston until 5:30 a.m. ET and most of the players didn't settle into their rooms until approximately 7 a.m.
"[Wakefield's] ball was moving a whole lot tonight, more than normal," said Carl Crawford, who recorded Tampa Bay's first hit, in the seventh inning. "He was really hitting his spots for somebody throwing a knuckleball, not only for strikes but in spots where you couldn't hit it. Usually, he'll have an inning or two where he loses control. But tonight he had control of it. ... His ball was dropping like two or three feet, so it was tough to hit."
Wakefield retired the first nine hitters he faced before Akinori Iwamura drew a walk to start the fourth. Wakefield then faced the minimum in the fifth and sixth, leaving him nine outs shy of a no-hitter.
"We knew [Wakefield had a no-hitter], we knew," Crawford said. "We knew each inning that it was no hits, and we were trying to break it up as soon as we could. We just know, there's not really too much talk. Guys know."
When facing Wakefield, Crawford strives to wait until the last instant to swing at the pitch known as the "dancing medicine ball."
"I just try to tell myself to stay back as long as I can," he said. "Then swing -- I don't try to do the normal professional swing, because I don't think that works."
Crawford finally ended any suspense about the Fenway faithful being treated to a no-hitter when he threaded a single between first and second to lead off the seventh.
"It was a knuckleball," he said. "I just tried to hit it, didn't try to do anything special."
Crawford then stole second and appeared to jam his leg, getting up gingerly. But he walked it off and managed to hustle to third on a flyout to center field before Wakefield escaped the jam by striking out Delmon Young for the third out.
Despite a lack of sleep, Crawford wouldn't use that as an excuse for Monday night's showing.
"I don't want to say that was why," he said. "[Wakefield] pitched a good game. He just got us tonight. That's basically what happened."
James Shields started for the Rays and matched Wakefield almost goose egg for goose egg through six innings, which made for a nice accounting given the way the game started for the right-hander.
Julio Lugo led off the bottom half of the first by hitting a ball off Shields' right shoulder. Manager Joe Maddon and Rays trainers hustled out to the mound to watch Shields take a few pitches before continuing.
"It hurt pretty bad," Shields said. "Nothing to get me out of the game, it got me square. Afterward, it really didn't hurt that bad. Probably like getting hit by a pitch for a hitter. It stung a little bit, I felt good afterward. ... [Maddon] knows me and he knows my personality, so you better break my leg in order for me to get off the mound."
After a flyout, David Ortiz doubled deep to center field. B.J. Upton fielded the ball perfectly in center and threw a strike to Brendan Harris, who made a nice relay throw that beat Lugo to the plate, but catcher Dioner Navarro couldn't hang on, and the Red Sox had a 1-0 lead.
Shields went on to deliver his 15th quality start of the season, allowing just one run on five hits while striking out five and walking none in six innings, but it wasn't enough when pitted against Wakefield.
"What is he, 18-2 against the Rays now?" Maddon said. "Is that the best all-time against any team? He is just good against us. He is good, but he is very good against us."
The Rays' offense now has scored just one run in its last 21 innings.
"[In] Texas [in Sunday's 9-1 loss], it was like a different pitcher every inning," said Crawford, trying to explain the sudden lack of offense. "That was kind of tough to adjust to. Then you had Wakefield tonight, [and] there you go. Now tomorrow, hopefully, we can score some more runs."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.