It took a little while - this previous post on the subject seems like a long, long time ago - but Tim Wakefield got a little help and won his 200th career game. The win came at an opportune time as well, as the Sox were able to put an important game between themselves and the Tampa Bay Rays in the wild card chase, increasing their lead back to 4 games.
Appropriately, the win came in proper Tim Wakefield fashion - a game where he wasn't dominant, but instead held on after a shaky start, settled in, and gave the team innings they had not been getting recently. During their five game losing streak, their starting pitchers pitched into the 6th inning zero times. It's pretty impossible to win that way, even with the potent Red Sox offense - they averaged 4.4 runs during that losing streak, down from their season average, but still a number that would place them 6th in the league.
After giving up 5 runs in three innings, Sox fans could be forgiven for panicking a bit, but Wakefield's knuckler started knuckling, and he pitched three shutout innings, getting them through the 6th . Meanwhile, Blue Jays pitching wasn't fooling the Red Sox lineup, and when Alfredo Aceves was brought in to start the 7th, the lead was 10-5.
Let's make an important distinction here. Wakefield getting the win even though his numbers weren't stellar doesn't mean he "knows how to win" in some innate way. What IS valuable, though, and has been throughout his career, has been his ability to adjust even when he's been terrible for a few innings. Pitching for the Red Sox offense, this has enabled him to win a couple extra games here and there, but, more importantly, it allows them to save the bullpen. With a pitcher less capable of making these adjustments on the mound, the Red Sox likely would have needed to bring in Aceves in the third or fourth inning, likely making it impossible for him to pitch the rest of the series. Instead, Aceves wasn't used until the 7th, pitching two easy innings (only 19 pitches) and remaining available for Thursday. He will need to be ready in case Kyle Weiland or Andrew Miller falter again.
In an important way then, Wakefield's night win is a good microcosm of his career. Something less than oustanding, but with a durability and adjustability to make him valuable. And, for the 200th time, victorious.