Devil Rays hand Wakefield rare loss
Young homers, bullpen comes through to keep Sox at bay
ST. PETERSBURG -- A strange occurrence took place at Tropicana Field with 30,310 watching on Sunday afternoon: Tim Wakefield lost.
The Rays took a 5-4 win over the Red Sox, and the veteran knuckleballer suffered his first defeat at the Trop.
Wakefield brought a 9-0 mark in the Rays' house into Sunday's game, including three saves in 19 games.
"You're always looking for that definitive sign of progress," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Getting Wakefield at the Pit is the definitive sign of progress."
And an anomaly -- as pointed out to Maddon -- something along the lines of defying the Farmer's Almanac.
"They're going to have to rewrite it now," he said. "The edited edition."
Delmon Young played a key role, as his two-run homer off Wakefield in the second inning staked the Rays to a 2-0 lead.
"It just hit my bat," Young said. "I just swing [against Wakefield], and hopefully, I make contact."
Young added a double in his second at-bat, in the fourth, and scored on Jonny Gomes' single to put the Rays up, 3-0. Jorge Velandia's fifth-inning RBI single pushed the lead to 4-0.
"I felt good," said Wakefield, who allowed four earned runs in five innings. "I thought I had good movement, but I made one mistake today. They were able to scrap together a couple of hits after the home run."
Young could not explain why the Rays were able get after Wakefield on Sunday.
"I've got no clue," he said. "Everyone went up there battling, just trying to put the bat on the ball, just letting the ball try and find a hole.
"You just hope the ball hits the bat, because you don't know where it's going. He probably doesn't know which way it's going. He's going to throw it over the plate, and it's going to break each way, stay up or stay down."
Young finished with three hits in four trips to the plate, with two RBIs and a stolen base. Maddon took time after the game to state the case for Young winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
"You put the whole picture together, tie the whole thing into a bundle, and I think he's Rookie of the Year," Maddon said. "Talk about offense, talk about defense, he's stolen bases this year. He's playing a complete game for us. I have to believe based on that he's the award-winner. He plays every day. He's going to play 162 games. I don't know the last time a rookie played every game. Sometimes people overlook that as being important.
"A guy who can go out there every day, who can play at that level, means a lot to the team. And he plays it fresh every day. So I think you have to take all of that into consideration when you cast your ballot. Because I think he absolutely deserves that award."
The fact that the Red Sox have three qualified candidates for the award in second baseman Dustin Pedroia, left-hander Hideki Okajima and right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka -- and the fact that they play for a contending team in a larger market than Tampa Bay -- was pointed out to Maddon.
"Those are wonderful intangibles," he said. "But it really comes down to performance. I also believe you can't base it on the fact you play in a city with more media attention."
Maddon's lobbying stood in contrast to the lack thereof by Young.
"Those Red Sox guys are putting up some very strong years," Young said. "I'm not that worried about it. I'd rather win a World Series ring."
In addition to Young, Jon Switzer and Al Reyes chipped in with their own variety of heroics.
Switzer entered the game after starter Edwin Jackson was touched for three runs in the sixth and made his exit with Red Sox on every base. Switzer proceeded to get Eric Hinske to hit a ball back to the box. The left-hander snared the shot and threw home to catcher Raul Casanova, who stepped on the plate and made a successful relay to Carlos Pena at first to complete the 1-2-3 inning-ending double-play.
"Switzer getting the double-play ball absolutely was the turning point of the game," Maddon said.
The Red Sox fought back to bring the score to 5-4 Rays when Alex Cora hit Dan Wheeler's first pitch of the eighth into the right-field stands for his third home run of the season. Wheeler then retired the Red Sox in order on three successive groundouts to Velandia at second base.
Reyes entered in the ninth to preserve the one-run lead less than 24 hours after taking a blown save and being tagged for a loss on Saturday night. After retiring the first two batters, Reyes had to get one final out -- pinch-hitter Jason Varitek.
Varitek had hit the game-tying homer off Reyes in the ninth inning the night before. This time, the Rays closer came through, retiring Varitek on a weak popout to Akinori Iwamura at third to end the game.
"It was good to get [Reyes] back out there that quickly, basically under the same set of circumstances," Maddon said. "He had to get Varitek out to make the last out. He did."
And the Rays won their 64th game of the season while avoiding a weekend sweep to the Red Sox.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.