Posted: Saturday, June 27th 2009 at 7:52pm
Boston blanks Braves, 1-0
By The Associated Press
Atlanta Braves' Martin Prado steals second base as Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia comes in with the late tag (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
ATLANTA - Tim Wakefield pitched six scoreless innings to win a duel with Javier Vazquez, and the Boston Red Sox blanked the punchless Atlanta Braves 1-0 Saturday.
Mark Kotsay drove in the game's only run with a sixth-inning single.
Wakefield (10-3) came up with a performance worthy of the day he tied Roger Clemens' record for the most career starts by a Red Sox pitcher at 382. His knuckleball was really fluttering on a sweltering day at Turner Field -- it was 95 degrees at first pitch -- and the Braves managed just three singles off the 42-year-old right-hander.
Manny Delcarmen retired all four hitters he faced, Justin Masterson got out trouble in the eighth and Jonathan Papelbon worked around a shaky ninth to complete the four-hit shutout, his 18th save in 19 chances.
Brian McCann flied out to the wall in right-center and Garret Anderson doubled with two outs, but Casey Kotchman grounded out to end the game.
Wakefield became the AL's third 10-game winner, joining Minnesota's Kevin Slowey and Toronto's Roy Halladay.
The Braves didn't get a runner past second until the eighth, and they had to scratch for that. Matt Diaz walked against Masterson, moved up on a wild pitch and took third on a groundout.
Atlanta has managed only one run in the first two games of its weekend series against the Red Sox, who took advantage of a lineup weakened by injuries to Nate McLouth and Yunel Escobar. Three of Atlanta's nine hitters came into the game hitting below .200.
McCann and Gregor Blanco both stole second after singling off Wakefield, taking advantage of his slow knuckleball. They didn't get any further. Blanco led off the sixth with another hit and moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Martin Prado, but the Boston starter retired Atlanta's most dangerous hitters: Chipper Jones with a liner to second and Brian McCann on a slow roller to first.
With that, Wakefield's work was done.
Vazquez (5-7) certainly pitched good enough to win. He struck out eight to claim the NL strikeout lead from San Francisco's Tim Lincecum (125-124), but a brief spurt of wildness in the sixth was costly.
After retiring the first two Boston hitters, Vazquez issued back-to-back walks to Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz, the latter after getting ahead 0-2 in the count. Big Papi got the call on a breaking pitch that just missed the strike zone, then managed to check his swing on a 3-2 pitch that swerved inside, nearly hitting him.
Kotsay, a former Brave, came through with a single to left, bringing home Youkilis with the game's only run.
The pitching matchup was a contrast in styles: Vazquez's 90-plus-mph fastballs and hard breaking pitches vs. Wakefield's tantalizingly slow knucklers, usually thrown in the mid-60s and once dipping down to 59 mph on the radar gun.
Vazquez went 7 2/3 innings, allowing just six hits and three walks. He left after Youkilis tripled off the wall in right with two outs in the eighth, prompting the Braves to bring on lefty Eric O'Flaherty, who walked Ortiz intentionally before retiring Kotsay on a weak fly to center.
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