The Red Sox knuckleballer held Tampa Bay hitless into the seventh inning, and Julio Lugo helped out with three hits on Monday night to lead Boston to a 3-0 victory over the Devil Rays. With the Yankees beating the Baltimore Orioles 7-6, New York remained four games behind Boston in the division.
"I think it was very important for us to get back at home and get some momentum going our way," said Wakefield, who has eight starts left to top his career high of 17 wins. "I'm just grateful that it's happening."
The Red Sox had lost four of their previous six games while watching New York cut into their lead in the division from a high of 12 games. With new bullpen acquisition Eric Gagne struggling and the Red Sox plummeting, they needed a good outing from their starter -- and a long one, too.
Wakefield (14-10) gave them both.
"This guy has been a blessing for us," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "I think it goes under the radar some times because of the way he pitches. I hope it doesn't. It's a phenomenal outing, and he's been phenomenal. And he's not done."
Wakefield allowed two hits in eight innings, striking out six and walking two to improve to 18-2 lifetime against the Devil Rays. The only batter to reach second or third base against him was Carl Crawford, who spoiled the no-hit bid when he led off the seventh with a hard grounder between the first and second basemen.
The crowd consoled Wakefield with a big cheer, and then it gave him another nice hand when he struck out Delmon Young with Crawford at third to preserve the shutout. Jonny Gomes singled off the Green Monster in the eighth for the other hit.
It's the sixth time in Wakefield's career that he has taken a no-hit bid into the seventh inning. Three of them were broken up in the seventh, two in the eighth and on June 19, 2001, he went into the ninth before Tampa Bay's Randy Winn singled with nobody out.
"He was not only throwing it for strikes, but spots you can't hit it," Crawford said. "His ball was dropping like 2-3 feet. It was tough to hit."
Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for his 28th save.
"Every night, he's overpowering," catcher Doug Mirabelli said of the Red Sox closer. "But to have him come out after Wake's been out there, with a 20 mph difference in fastballs, it's a big adjustment."
James Shields (9-8) allowed one run and five hits in six innings, striking out five for the Devil Rays.
"It's amazing what Wakefield does," said Shields, who said he tries to throw a knuckleball every day. "Any given day, he can come out and do what he did tonight. I'm battling to keep our guys in the game, and he's doing what he does."
Lugo lined one back up the middle and off Shields' right shoulder to lead off the first; the ball bounced toward the right side of the infield for a single. One out later, David Ortiz doubled high off the center field fence, and Lugo slid past the tag when catcher Dioner Navarro couldn't handle the throw.
Lugo also doubled in the third inning, but other than that no Red Sox batter reached second base against Shields. Gary Glover walked Mirabelli and Eric Hinske with two outs in the seventh, then Lugo singled in a run to make it 2-0.
Mike Lowell's RBI single in the eighth off Grant Balfour made it 3-0.
Ortiz also added some comic relief in the sixth when he jumped back out of the way to dodge a pitch at his ankles, winding up on his hands and feet. Already in position, he did two push-ups before climbing back into the box to finish the at-bat.
- Wakefield has pitched a three-hit complete game twice, the last in 2005 against the New York Yankees.
- Wakefield has recorded a decision in all 24 of his starts. No pitcher with at least 24 starts has been able to do that over a whole season since 1939.
- It was the 10th shutout for Boston pitchers, tying Seattle for the most in the AL.
- Neither team took batting practice because of pregame showers.
- Red Sox RHP Brendan Donnelly will have Tommy John ligament transplant surgery on his right elbow on Tuesday. He is out for 12-18 months.
- Boston LHP Jon Lester will start Tuesday -- his first start at Fenway Park since being diagnosed with cancer last August. "With any start, you don't want to get too amped up. I have enough trouble getting the ball over the plate already," he said with a smile. "It probably won't sink in until tomorrow when I see the Fenway background."
- Red Sox OF Coco Crisp had the day off with what doctors suspect is a virus. He's scheduled for more tests to determine the cause.