CLEVELAND – Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield entered Tuesday sporting a 1-4 record and a hefty 6.02 ERA.
No matter. He was facing the Triple-A Indians.
With Wakefield’s knuckler dancing and Cleveland hitters flailing once again, Boston took the second of a four-game series at Progressive Field via a 3-2 decision.
The Indians managed two runs (one earned) on just four hits over 7 1/3 innings against Wakefield, who won for just the second time in nine starts (12 appearances).
“Even with guys that have faced him before, it’s difficult,” said Cleveland manager Manny Acta. “I can’t imagine what it’s like for the young guys that have never seen him before.”
It wasn’t pretty.
After allowing an unearned run in the opening inning, Wakefield was on cruise control, retiring 15 straight after the error with one out in the first. A solo home run from Shelley Duncan in the seventh inning accounted for Cleveland’s other run.
Cleveland starter David Huff (2-7, 5.46 ERA) was a hard-luck loser, allowing three runs (none of them earned) on eight hits, while striking out six over six innings.
All of Huff’s runs came in a disastrous fourth inning for the Indians that was jumpstarted by an unfathomable error on center fielder Trevor Crowe.
With two outs and the Indians in front 1-0, Victor Martinez lifted a fly ball deep to center that Crowe got under but dropped at the wall.
Unable to shake off the misfortune, Huff allowed hits to the next four batters he faced, as Boston scored three times to take control of the game.
“(Crowe) looked like he just covered his eyes with his glove,” Acta said. “But after that, (Huff’s) got to make pitches and not allow four hits in a row. That’s part of the game. You have to put that behind you. He was one pitch away from getting out of the inning.”
Crowe wound up making a diving catch to end the inning, one of two on the night, but the one he flubbed was the one that stuck with him and the Indians, who lost for the 14th time in 18 games at Progressive Field.
“Bottom line is that it was a routine fly ball and I just dropped it,” Crowe said. “It’s difficult, especially with the way Huff was pitching. That’s really the only time they got to him.
“It’s difficult, very difficult. I feel really poorly for Huff.”
Huff admitted the error rattled him, but agreed with Acta’s assessment of how he should have handled himself after.
“It happens. It’s part of baseball,” he said. “He made two other catches that were unbelievable. I need to be able to refocus and get the next guy out and I had trouble doing that.”
Cleveland put the tying run on base in both the eighth and ninth innings but not so shockingly failed to score on both occasions.
Pinch hitter Travis Hafner produced a one-out double in the eighth and was lifted for pinch runner Anderson Hernandez, who stole third with two out and stayed there after Shin-Soo Choo walked and Hideki Okajima came on to retire Austin Kearns on a liner to right.
Okajima walked Russell Branyan with one out in the ninth before striking out Duncan and getting Luis Valbuena to ground to second to end the game.
It was a historic night for Wakefield, who surpassed Roger Clemens as Boston’s all-time leader in innings pitched (2,777). Wakefield’s 177 wins since 1995 are the third-most over the span, trailing only Mike Mussina (218) and Andy Pettitte (199).
The Indians fell to 3-11 against the American League East and 1-28 when they are outhit by their opponent.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.