BOSTON -- The Red Sox as a collective group needed a win on Tuesday night even more than Tim Wakefield did, and the Major League's oldest player combined with the top of his lineup to deliver in grand fashion.
Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury totaled eight hits and three home runs as the Sox blasted their way past the Blue Jays, 18-6, at Fenway Park. It was Boston's highest run output since August 2009, and with the luck Wakefield had of late on his quest for win No. 200, he needed the backup.
In his eighth start trying to reach the milestone, the knuckleballer went six innings and gave up five runs as he became the 108th pitcher in Major League history to reach the exclusive mark. Just 89 pitchers have done so since 1900.
"I'm very grateful; one, that it's over with; two, that it was able to happen here at Fenway Park in front of our home crowd," said Wakefield, who took a long curtain call after the win was sealed. "Going outside and seeing the signs and all the people and my teammates came out in support, that says a lot about everything that's gone on in my career and tonight. I'm kind of speechless when it comes to that, but I'm very grateful that I've been able to wear this uniform as long as I have and reach the milestone I thought I'd never reach. Just very grateful."
At 45 years and 42 days old, Wakefield threw 96 pitches, 62 for strikes, and struck out six. He gave up six hits and walked two.
Boston came home to Fenway from St. Petersburg with a five-game losing streak and the possibility that, without a turnaround, it could actually miss the playoffs. But Tuesday was a classic breakout game, and combined with the Rays' 4-2 loss to the Orioles, Boston's lead in the American League Wild Card grew to four games.
Red Sox 200-game winners
|Tim Wakefield||Sept. 13, 2011|
|Curt Schilling||May 27, 2006|
|Luis Tiant||Aug. 16, 1978|
|Ferguson Jenkins||July 27, 1976|
|Lefty Grove||Aug. 8, 1934|
"I'm glad we won. I'm thrilled we won," manager Terry Francona said. "It's been a tough week for us, but I don't know. I'm happy we won. It's a nice feeling to hear the music inside [after] the game. It's been awhile."
Despite the loss of David Ortiz before the designated hitter got an at-bat -- he was removed in the first inning because of back spasms, another injury on a mounting list -- the Boston offense erupted against a pitcher its handled marvelously this season: Brandon Morrow.
Entering the night, the Toronto right-hander's ERA against the Sox in three starts this season was 13.83.
At the heart of everything were Ellsbury and Pedroia, the Nos. 1 and 2 hitters. Both went 4-for-5, with Ellsbury homering once and Pedroia going deep twice. Ellsbury also walked once, putting both men on base a combined nine times.
What came with those performances was some history. Pedroia reached the 20-home run plateau with his second homer, in a four-run sixth inning, giving both him and Ellsbury at least 20 homers and 20 steals.
Never before have the Sox had two 20-20 players in the same season.
"That's our job, to get on base and wreak havoc," said Pedroia, who also tied a career-high with five RBIs. "Ells' season is unbelievable. He's done everything. We have to get on base for [Adrian Gonzalez]. I know David was banged up, and [Kevin Youkilis], but if we're doing that, our offense is really good."
Ellsbury tied the game at 3 with a double in the second inning, which also extended his hit streak to 17 games. One batter later, Pedroia put Boston ahead with a sac fly to left.
Jose Bautista, on the verge of a second consecutive Major League home run title, gave Toronto back the lead in the third, in eye-popping fashion. He belted a two-run shot, his 42nd of the year, off the top of the foul pole in left. The Blue Jays led, 5-4, but they didn't score again until the ninth inning.
Ellsbury hit his 27th homer of the year into the first row of the Monster Seats to knot things up at 5 in the fourth, and then Pedroia cleared the fabled left-field wall with a go-ahead shot three pitches later.
"Pedey, I think Pedey's taking it upon himself," Francona said. "That's the type of player he is. He's been trying to do that for the past week, but he swung at some good pitches tonight. ... He's a little guy, but I bet he can put us on his shoulders for a few days."
Pedroia followed up with his 20th homer of the season in Boston's four-run sixth, a three-run job.
After Wakefield was out, Alfredo Aceves threw two scoreless innings, and Junichi Tazawa made his first big league appearance since 2009 in the ninth, allowing one run. They were just role players, though, in Wakefield's show.
"Two hundred wins is a long time," said Toronto manager and former Sox pitching coach John Farrell. "It's a heck of an accomplishment. We would have liked to prolong that date that he got his 200th a little bit more. It felt like the way we came out we had every opportunity to do that, but their offense was obviously very difficult to keep down tonight."