Wakefield on 2,000 K's: 'Pretty special'

BOSTON -- Milestone weekend continued Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park.

While the Red Sox defeated the Seattle Mariners 12-8 to extend the visitors' losing skid to 15 consecutive games, Sox starter Tim Wakefield improved to 6-3 in 13 starts this season and recorded his 2,000th career strikeout with Boston. It was Wakefield's 199th career victory.

Wakefield followed the milestone theme set by Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who earned his 1,000th victory of his career on Saturday.

Wakefield entered Sunday’s game with 1,996 strikeouts, and he registered his 2,000th when he got the Mariners’ Mike Carp swinging to end the top of the sixth. As Wakefield walked off the field, Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia met him at the first-base line, shook Wakefield’s hand and handed the veteran the baseball.

He also received a standing ovation from the fans and more congratulatory hugs from his teammates in the dugout.

“It was pretty special. It was very emotional for me,” Wakefield said of the ovation. “For them to acknowledge the fact, and I had no idea that it happened -- Salty was walking toward me and I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ and he said, ‘Congratulations on 2,000 strikeouts.’ It was a pretty cool ovation and a pretty cool day for me.

“Tito winning a thousand games is pretty special, too,” Wakefield said. “It shows his character and he’s done the right things over his career. He’s a great manager and I’m proud to say I’ve played for him for eight years. He’s brought two World Series championships to the city of Boston and he gets the most out of his players on the field.”

Wakefield worked 6 1/3 innings and allowed seven runs on 10 hits with one walk and four strikeouts. He surrendered a grand slam to the Mariners’ Brendan Ryan in the seventh inning with the Sox leading 11-3.

Wakefield becomes the second Red Sox pitcher in franchise history to record 2,000 strikeouts, joining Roger Clemens (2,590).

“Any milestone you achieve is ranked up there pretty high with me and 2,000 is a high number," Wakefield said. "It says a lot about being in one place for a long time like I have, going through ups and downs in my career and being able to persevere for the last 17 years.”

Only three other American League teams have had two pitchers reach that plateau -- the Angels (Nolan Ryan and Chuck Finley), Indians (Bob Feller and Sam McDowell) and Twins (Walter Johnson and Bert Blyleven).

Of approaching 200 career wins, Wakefield said, "I'm one step closer."

HEATING UP: At the time Carl Crawford suffered a hamstring strain that landed him on the disabled list on June 18, Boston’s left fielder had been playing well and it appeared he was about to heat up. Since returning from the DL last Monday in Baltimore, Crawford has recorded a hit in five of the six games he’s played.

“I actually think he looks better,” Francona said before Sunday's win. “He got rewarded with a couple of hits his first game [back from DL] and that relaxed him at the plate. On the bases he’s been real aggressive. He’s taken off on the first pitch three times, which he wasn’t necessarily doing before, so it’s obvious that he’s feeling pretty good physically. He’s in a good place.”

Crawford continued that pace on Sunday, going 3-for-4 with a walk, double, two RBIs and two runs scored. Since being activated, he’s 9-for-24 (.375) with two doubles, four RBI and four runs scored.

SALTY RIBS: Saltalamacchia scorched the ball Sunday afternoon. Batting eighth, he went 3-for-4 with four RBIs. All of his hits were hard-hit singles to right field. He’s reached base in 26 of his last 28 games, hitting .296 during that time with 16 RBIs.

UP NEXT: Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester (10-4, 3.31 ERA) returns to the mound on Monday after being on the disabled list since July 6 with a lat strain. Lester will face Kansas City’s Kyle Davies (1-9, 7.32) as Boston begins a four-game series against the Royals at Fenway Park. The last time Lester pitched, he was removed with the injury after four no-hit innings and five strikeouts against the Blue Jays on July 5.

“The biggest thing will be watching his workload,” Francona said. “He’s come through this about as well as you can hope. He was completely pain-free when he started throwing and that’s what we wanted. Now it’s just about building up endurance where if you go out and let a guy throw 120 [pitches] his first time out he’ll be sore, so you don’t want to do that. You try to balance winning the game and bringing him along where he can get on a roll.

“When that bell rings, he’s going to forget about being down for a couple of weeks. He’s going to go out and fire and try to win. That’s good but we have to keep an eye on him.”