Boston knuckeballer baffles Twins

By Jon Krawczynski

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Tim Wakefield may have found the cure for the common cold — get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids and pitch in the Dome.

Struggling with an illness, Wakefield had his knuckleball dancing for seven innings and David Ortiz homered to lead the Boston Red Sox to a 2-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.

"He was fantastic," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "And he’s about 48 hours removed from a couple of IV bags. ... I actually sent him home early one night from the Oakland series to get some rest. He was really struggling."


Wakefield (3-3) held the AL’s top-hitting team to three hits and never allowed a runner past second base to outpitch Carlos Silva (2-2) for Boston’s third straight win.

Silva allowed just one run over seven innings, but got nothing from an offense that flailed helplessly at 61-mph knucklers all night.

Torii Hunter had two hits to extend his hitting streak to 19 games, but Jason Bartlett managed the only other hit against Wakefield as the Twins lost their third straight.

"It just dances away from you," said Nick Punto, who went 0-for-4. "It might look hittable at the beginning, but by the time it gets to the plate, it’s dropping off the table."

Jonathan Papelbon got the last three outs for his ninth save in 10 chances.

Wakefield has always had success indoors at Minnesota, so much so that Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has often talked longingly about adding a knuckler to his staff.

With his knuckleball floating and stinging — he got MVP Justin Morneau on a check swing in the third and hit Joe Mauer in the first — Wakefield made things look easy, improving to 7-3 in the Metrodome.

"I love pitching inside, obviously," Wakefield said. "And I like pitching in here. ... I can’t explain it. I really don’t know, but it’s one of those things where the ball moves a little bit more here."


He got just enough support on Friday night and did his part by stymieing a Twins lineup that had at least 12 hits in each of its previous three games and led the AL with a .281 batting average when the day began.

"This Metrodome, I think, is his friend," Gardenhire said. "The ball does some pretty good things in here, moves around. We’ve seen his ball darting and diving before. Doesn’t make it any easier to hit him."

Wakefield was limited to 23 appearances last season — the fewest since his rookie year in 1992 — by a stress fracture in his rib cage and finished the year 7-11 with a 4.63 ERA. But the 40-year-old looks just fine so far this season. He entered the game sixth in the AL with a 2.59 ERA and is more than holding his own with Boston’s more celebrated starters — Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Silva is enjoying a resurgence of his own after a disastrous 2006 in which he went 11-15 with a 5.94 ERA and allowed a league-high 38 homers.

Gardenhire called Silva "fantastic," but he walked a tightrope between effectiveness and disaster all night. The Red Sox hit the ball very hard against the Venezuelan right-hander; four of their five hits against him went for extra bases, but the rest were blasted right at Twins defenders.

"What I have to do is give the team the opportunity to win the game," Silva said. "Every time you’re able to do that, you’re going to be in a great spot."

Ortiz finally broke through in the sixth, driving a sinker an estimated 423 feet into the upper deck in right field. Ortiz’s 200th career homer as a DH tied him with Chili Davis for sixth all-time.

"I just tried not to hit the speaker again," Ortiz said, referring to a game last June when his moon shot ricocheted off a speaker hanging in right and fell in for a harmless single.


J.D. Drew tripled to lead off the ninth against Juan Rincon, and scored one out later on Coco Crisp’s single to right field.

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