Stats & Info: Tim Wakefield

5 stats to know: Rays at Red Sox

July, 24, 2013

USA TODAY Sports, AP PhotoFelix Dubront (left) and David Price (right) will take the mound for their respective teams on Wednesday Night Baseball. The teams have split the first 2 games of the 4-game series
The Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox play the third game of a four-game series tonight at Fenway Park at 7 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN.

Here are five stats our broadcast crew will likely be talking about during Wednesday night’s game.

1. Since returning from the disbaled list on July 2, David Price has a 3-1 record and a 1.97 ERA. During that stretch, he’s walked one batter in 32 innings.

One of the biggest changes for Price since returning from the disabled list has been his increased usage of his changeup.

In April and May, he threw the pitch only 13% of the time. In his last four starts, he’s throwing it 21% of the time.

Price is 8-5 in 17 career starts against the Red Sox, with a 3.27 ERA. However, he’s been much better at Fenway, going 4-1 with a 2.13 ERA in eight starts.

His ERA is the lowest of any active visiting pitcher at Fenway with at least five starts.

2. Dustin Pedroia has reportedly agreed to a seven-year extension worth about $100 million that would keep him in a Red Sox uniform until 2021. The team plans to make a formal announcement within days.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, if Pedroia plays out this new contract with Boston, he would have spent 16 seasons with the team, something only five players have done: Carl Yastrzemski (23 seasons), Ted Williams (19), Dwight Evans (19), Tim Wakefield (17) and Jim Rice (16).

Pedroia’s contract would be the fourth contract worth at least $100 million handed out by the team in its history.

None of the previous three completed the contact in a Boston uniform, although Manny Ramirez almost got there.

3. Despite losing Tuesday night, the Rays are still one of the hottest teams in baseball, having won 21 of their last 26 games. This streak has moved them within 1½ games of the first-place Red Sox in the AL East.

However, Tampa Bay has struggled against Boston this year, going 4-10 (20-15 against the rest of the AL East). The Rays have lost the season series to the Red Sox for the first time since 2007.

4. David Ortiz is one home run shy of reaching 20 for the 11th time in a Red Sox uniform. That would match Dwight Evans and Jim Rice for the second-most such seasons in club history, behind only Ted Williams (16 years).

5. Felix Doubront is enjoying a solid run for Boston, as he hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in a start since May 8, compiling a 2.59 ERA in those 12 starts.

Doubront is the first Red Sox pitcher to go 12 straight starts while allowing three or fewer earned runs since Pedro Martinez went 16 straight ending in April 2003.

Quick Hitters
• Tampa Bay will play 38 road games after the All Star break, the most in the majors. The good news is the Rays have the best road record in baseball since 2010 (.550 win percentage).

• The Red Sox and Atlanta Braves are the only teams that have remained above .500 for the entire season. It’s the latest Boston has stayed above .500 since 1946, when they stayed above that mark the entire season.

The wait continues for Wakefield

August, 21, 2011
Boston Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield entered Saturday needing one win to become the 108th pitcher in Major League history to record 200 career victories.
Tim Wakefield

The wait continues.

Wakefield allowed four earned runs in 5 ⅓ innings pitched as he failed to get win number 200 in his fifth attempt. Elias says there have been four pitchers since 1900 who needed at least five starts to go from 199 to 200 wins, including the most recent example, Mike Mussina, in 2004. Only two pitchers in Major League history, besides Wakefield, have needed more than five starts to go from 199 to 200 wins. Lefty Steve Carlton needed seven attempts and coincidentally knuckleballer, Charlie Hough, took six starts to reach the 200-win mark in August of 2002.

Despite being winless since July 24, Wakefield has posted three quality starts (6 IP, 3 ER or fewer) in the five games since win 199. He hasn’t allowed more than four earned runs in any of the five starts and has a 4.50 ERA overall. Along the way he also earned an eight-inning complete game, his first complete game since April 22, 2009.

So what happened on Saturday?

Wakefield had trouble keeping the knuckleball out of the middle of the zone, throwing a season-high 37 at the belt line. The Royals feasted on those pitches, going 6 for 14 with three doubles. He also tied a season high by allowing four doubles, three of which happened with men on base. All three doubles led to a run coming in to score.

Wakefield’s next start will likely come against the Texas Rangers on Thursday, but if he hopes to make history then he’ll have to overcome the fact that he has not recorded a win against the Rangers since April 20, 2008.

Tidbit of the Night
Prior to Saturday the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had never won a game when trailing by two runs or more in the 12th inning or later.

Oddly enough this scenario happened twice on Saturday as the Colorado Rockies also rallied from two down in the 12th inning to eventually defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers in 13 innings

According to Elias, This is the first time in MLB history that two teams won games in the same day when trailing by two-or-more runs in the 12th inning or later.
The Red Sox and Twins begin a three-game set in Minnesota at 7 ET on Monday Night Baseball on ESPN.

The Boston Red Sox, fresh off taking two of three games from the New York Yankees this weekend, travel to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Twins. The Red Sox have already won three of four against the Twins this season.

On the Mound

Tim Wakefield makes his third attempt at winning his 200th career game. The 45-year-old is 14-7 in his career against the Twins, but only 3-5 against them since 2006. Should he earn his 200th career win tonight, his 456 games started are 11th-most all-time to reach the milestone. According to Elias, Wakefield could be the second Red Sox pitcher to earn the career milestone victory on August 8th. Lefty Grove earned his 200th win 77 years ago today -- on August 8, 1934 against the Philadelphia Athletics (the team for which Grove won his first 195 games).

Opponents are hitting an identical .261 against Wakefield in at-bats ending with his fastball (6-23) or knuckleball (99-379), but just .143 (1-7) in at-bats ending with his curveball. After throwing his 75th pitch of the game, opponents are batting .328 (22-67) against him.

After allowing nine earned runs in his first two starts of the year at home, Scott Baker is 5-0 in his last six home starts, allowing only one earned run. In addition, since 2009, Baker is a perfect 7-0 with a 3.24 ERA in the month of August.

Baker has buckled down with runners in scoring position this season, holding hitters to a .187 average, which ranks fourth in the AL among pitchers who have faced a minimum of 90 batters in that situation.

Matchups to Watch

After coming over to Boston as a free agent from Minnesota, David Ortiz hit .363 with nine doubles and nine HR while slugging .758. However, since 2008, Ortiz is hitting .233 with seven extra-base hits while slugging .383.

Jim Thome has some rough matchups against Red Sox pitchers in this series. He’s 10-for-58 (.172 BA) career against Tim Wakefield in the regular season. But he has four hits in his last nine at-bats against him, including a HR on August 31, 2008. That HR snapped a 19 at-bat hitless streak by Thome against Wakefield.

Stat of the Game

The Twins ranked tied for third in MLB with 54 Defensive Runs Saved last season. This season, they rank 21st with -14 Defensive Runs Saved (in other words, the defense has cost the Twins 14 runs). Nearly the entire gap can be found at SS and 3B.
The Seattle Mariners scored eight runs Sunday but lost to the Boston Red Sox 12-8. The Mariners have lost a team-record 15 straight games, which is tied for the second-longest single-season streak by any team in the Wild Card Era (since 1995).

It's the most runs the Mariners have scored in a game since June 5, in a 9-6 win over Tampa Bay, and the first time all season they've scored at least seven runs and lost the game.

The Red Sox have won nine straight home games (a season high) and seven of their past eight games overall. They improve to 16-3 in July, the best record in baseball this month.

The San Diego Padres lost their 10th straight game to the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, the second-longest losing streak by the Padres to the Phillies in team history -- they lost 11 straight meetings from 2004-06.

According to Elias, it's the longest current losing streak by a major league team against a single opponent.

The win for the Phillies means that they've gone 42 consecutive games without losing two in a row, assuring them of reaching 43 straight games Monday. According to Elias, that sets a franchise record -- they went 42 straight games without losing two in a row from April 14 to June 3, 1976.

Elias tells us that it also means the Phillies have won nine consecutive series of three or more games, which ties a franchise record. They last won nine straight series of at least three games in 1995.

Elsewhere around MLB:
• The Chicago Cubs beat the Houston Astros 5-4 in 10 innings, leaving the Astros with a 33-68 record. It marks the first time they've been 35 games under .500 since September 6, 1975.

The win means the Cubs have won three in a row for the first time all season -- they were 0-9 when going for their third straight win before Sunday.

• The Los Angeles Angels beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-3 behind a home run from rookie Mike Trout, the team's first-round draft pick out of high school in 2009. Trout -- at 19 years, 351 days -- is the third-youngest Angel to hit his first career home run and the youngest player to homer in the majors since Justin Upton (19 years, 347 days) hit his first on August 7, 2007.

• Mariano Rivera got his 25th save when the New York Yankees beat the Oakland Athletics 7-5. It's his 15th season with 25 saves, the most in major league history, one more than all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman.

• Tim Wakefield struck out four in Boston's win over Seattle, his 2,000th strikeout with the Red Sox. He trails only Roger Clemens on the franchise's all-time list.

Sabathia looks to keep rolling on the road

June, 19, 2011
CC Sabathia
CC Sabathia leads the New York Yankees into Sunday night’s rubber match against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

In each of Sabathia’s last three road appearances, he’s lasted eight or more innings and allowed one earned run or fewer. He’s just the fifth Yankees pitcher to do so since 1970.

The last pitcher with four straight road starts of eight innings pitched and one earned run or fewer was Chris Carpenter in 2005. The last American League pitcher with four straight? Mike Mussina in 1995 with Orioles.

However you have to go all the way back to Spud Chandler in 1947 to find the last Yankees pitcher to do so in four straight road games.

Still one month shy of turning 31, Sabathia already has the third-most wins before age 31 of any pitcher in the last 30 years. With a win Sunday, he’d match Greg Maddux’s total of 166 before he turned 31.

Sabathia is 1-2 career against the Cubs. The only teams against whom he has worse records are the two teams he’s pitched for: he’s 0-1 vs the Brewers and 1-8 against the Yankees.

Sabathia has dominated left-handed batters this season. Lefties have just two extra-base hits in 94 at-bats against CC Sabathia this season. Their slugging percentage against him is .277.

The only American League starting pitchers whose opponent slugging percentage against lefties is lower are David Price (.235), Josh Beckett (.241), Tim Wakefield (.250), and Justin Verlander (.273)

While Sabathia garners many of the headlines, Sunday night is a special occasion for Cubs starting pitcher Randy Wells. In 2009 on Father’s day Wells picked up his first career victory.

Wells has struggled since coming off a stint on the disabled list. In four starts since rejoining the club he is 0-1 with a 7.00 ERA while allowing three home runs.

He has really struggled this season against leadoff hitters. The No. 1 hitter in the batting order is 5-for-13 with two walks against Wells this season.

That’s part of a career pattern. The No. 1 hitter in the batting order has a career .330 batting average and .396 on base percentage against Wells.

Cleanup hitters crushes Wells too notching a.325 batting average with eight home runs in 163 career at-bats.

This Date In Baseball History:

Lou Gehrig was born in June 19, 1903. In the 1932 World Series against the Cubs, he hit .529 with 3 HR and 8 RBI in 4 games.
(The New York Yankees host the Boston Red Sox, Wednesday at 7 ET on ESPN.)

The Red Sox are 6-1 against the Yankees in 2011, but recent history suggests that by the end of the season this series will balance itself out. The season series each of the last three seasons has been split 9-9. (In 2009, Boston won the first eight games. Last season New York won five of the first seven.)

Recent history also suggests that Yankees' starter A.J. Burnett will struggle, which is somewhat odd since he dominated the Red Sox before signing with the Yankees.

As a member of the Toronto Blue Jays from 2006-08, Burnett was 5-0 with a 2.56 ERA against the Red Sox. With the Yankees, Burnett is is 0-3 with an 8.33 ERA. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's the highest ERA for any pitcher who’s thrown at least 25 innings against the Red Sox over the last three seasons.

One player who has given Burnett problems is Dustin Pedroia. He has a .475 on-base percentage against Burnett, thanks largely to 10 walks in 40 plate appearances. Pedroia is part of an interesting group of hitters who have had great success reaching base against Burnett. His .475 OBP against Burnett is comparable to Justin Morneau (.481), Joe Mauer (.478) and Ichiro Suzuki (.478).

On Tuesday, Alex Rodriguez struck out to end the game, the 13th time as a member of the Yankees that he’s ended a game by striking out. Tim Wakefield is on the mound Wednesday for the Red Sox, and the only player he’s struck out more than Rodriguez (20 times), is Jason Giambi (21).

Rodriguez also has hit seven home runs off Wakefield. One tonight would tie him for the most home runs he’s hit off one pitcher in his career. (Rodriguez has eight career HR against Ramon Ortiz, David Wells and teammate Bartolo Colon.)

If Rodriguez -- or any other Yankee -- strikes out against Wakefield, don’t expect it to be on a “fastball.” Batters have swung at 11 of Wakefield’s 33 fastballs this season and have made contact each time.

Also, expect a right-handed dominant lineup for the Yankees. Left-handed batters are hitting .179 (12-67) this season against Wakefield. Righties are hitting .289 (28-97), and all six of Wakefield’s home runs this season have been hit by right-handed batters.

As for Derek Jeter, he’s 12 hits from 3,000. He's a career .287 hitter against Wakefield (31-108), but is hitless in his last nine at-bats against the knuckleballer. His last hit was a single on Aug. 26, 2008

The Yankees have relied heavily on home runs to score this season. Almost 50 percent (49.5) of their runs have been scored off home runs, by far the highest percentage in the league. The Brewers are second at 39.3. Why is this important? Of the last 10 teams (2001-10) to lead the league in this statistic, only two made the playoffs (2008 Chicago White Sox, 2009 Philadelphia Phillies) and neither won the World Series.
The Chicago Cubs used an eight-run eighth inning Saturday to beat the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park for the first time since 1918. It only seems that their offense has been struggling just as long. They look for more of the same in the series finale Sunday night (ESPN, 8 ET).

The Cubs are second in the majors in batting average (.279) -- helping them rank fourth in on-base percentage (.336) -- but are just 15th in runs scored. That's because they don't do anything to advance runners or drive them in. They're last in baseball in walks and next-to-last in stolen bases, tied for 22nd in home runs and only 17th in hitting with runners in scoring position.

The Cubs' pitching hasn't been much better, ranking in the bottom three of the National League this season in ERA, starters' ERA, opponents' BA and walks allowed.

Tim Wakefield starts for the Red Sox on Sunday, and he could be the answer to the Cubs' woes. Opponents are hitting .345 against him this season with runners in scoring position, the highest among the nine Boston pitchers who have 25 such at-bats.

Carlos Pena could be a beneficiary as well -- he's just a .216 career hitter against Wakefield in the regular season, but in the past two seasons, has reached base in six of nine plate appearances against the knuckleballer.

Pena has been hot this month after another slow start. He has five home runs in May after hitting none in April and is striking out at a much lower rate.

Cubs starter James Russell will have to continue his good work against lefties -- especially the first time through the order -- to give his team a chance. As a starter, batters facing him the first time in a game are 15-for-35 (.429), but just 6-for-27 (.222) the second time around.

His righty-lefty splits are huge: right-handed batters are hitting more than 200 points higher against him and he's walked just one lefty all season.

Perhaps worst of all for Russell, making his fifth career start, is that he's been far better as a reliever this year than as a starter. In nine appearances (8 ⅔ innings) in relief, he has yet to allow a run.

2011 as starter: 0-4, 10.05 ERA, .368 opp BA
2011 as reliever: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, .172 opp BA

The Sox power hitters could be in business Sunday night, as Russell has allowed 17 home runs in 72 career innings pitched. That translates to 47 home runs in a 200-inning season.

-- Mark Simon, David Bearman and Katie Sharp contributed to this report.
Today’s Trivia: When Bartolo Colon, 37, takes the mound Wednesday for his first start with the New York Yankees, he will be the oldest pitcher to start a game this season. Who currently holds that distinction?

Quick Hits: With some of the hottest pitchers set to take the mound, Wednesday sets up to be quite a day for pitching.

• Of the 34 starters scheduled for Wednesday, 11 have an ERA under 2.00 and nine are looking to start 3-0 or better. Eight of the MLB’s top ten in ERA draw starts Wednesday.

Gio Gonzalez
• Gio Gonzalez, Justin Masterson, Aaron Harang, Jered Weaver and Matt Harrison are all scheduled to pitch. Each has allowed 1 ER or fewer in 6+ innings in each of their first three starts. (According to, the last pitcher to start a season with four straight such starts was Cliff Lee in 2008 (who did it in five straight).

• The last time multiple pitchers started the season with four straight starts of 1 ER or fewer in 6+ innings was 1998: Chuck Finley and Greg Maddux.

• Weaver (4-0, 1.30 ERA) looks to become the first pitcher in MLB history with five wins by April 20, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

• He faces Harrison (3-0, 1.23 ERA), who looks to be the first Texas Rangers pitcher to win each of his first four starts since Darren Oliver in 2001.

• Gonzalez (2-0, 0.47 ERA) faces the Boston Red Sox with the MLB’s best ERA. He’s boasts a streak of 17 scoreless innings and opponents are 0-for-13 with RISP.

• Masterson (3-0, 1.33 ERA) has held right-handed hitters to a .103 BA (3-for-29).

• Jaime Garcia (2-0, 1.35 ERA) takes on the Washington Nationals. In his career, he is 4-1 with a 1.17 ERA. In seven career April starts, he’s never allowed more than two earned runs.

Dustin Moseley
• Dustin Moseley is 0-3 despite a 1.83 ERA. A big reason? The San Diego Padres haven’t scored a run in any of his three starts. According to Elias, the only pitcher in the last 30 years whose team was shut out in each of four consecutive starts was Arizona's Randy Johnson in June-July 1999.

• Harang (3-0, 1.50 ERA) draws the second start of the day for San Diego. He looks to become just the third pitcher to win his first four starts of a season with the Padres. Only Randy Jones (1976) and Andy Hawkins (1985) have done so. Dennis Rasmussen won his first four starts with the Padres in 1988, but was a midseason acquisition.

Trivia Answer: Derek Lowe, who also takes the hill Wednesday, is the oldest pitcher to start a game so far this season. Also 37, he’s just eight days younger than Colon. Last season, Jamie Moyer (47) and Tim Wakefield (44) were the oldest to start a game.

Rangers are rolling on the road

October, 20, 2010
The Texas Rangers are 5-0 on the road this postseason. This, after going a combined 0-6 during the regular season in road games against the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees. From the Elias Sports Bureau: the five consecutive road wins by the Rangers ties the third longest road win streak to start a postseason.

• In the 36 innings played in the ALCS, the Yankees still have had just one inning where they scored more than one run (Game 1, five-run eighth inning).

• Josh Hamilton has four home runs against the Yankees in this series. Hamilton and Jim Thome in 1998 are the only players who have hit four HR against the Yankees in a single LCS.

• Hamilton now has twice as many HR in this series as he had hits in the division series against the Rays (two singles).

• Bengie Molina has 12 RBI in his postseason career against the Yankees, tied with Roy Campanella for the most by a catcher against the Yankees. Molina also has four HR against the Yankees, tied for the second most by a catcher against the Yankees in postseason history. (Jason Varitek has five.)
Derek Holland

• Derek Holland pitched 3⅔ scoreless innings to get the win. He's the fifth pitcher to win, throwing at least three scoreless innings of relief against the Yankees in a postseason game, and the first since Tim Wakefield in Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS.

• The Yankees have allowed 30 runs in the first four games of the ALCS. The only other series in which the Yankees allowed more runs through the first four games was the 2002 ALDS against the Los Angeles Angels, when they allowed 31.

• If the Yankees are going to avoid elimination, they will have to do it on the six-year anniversary of losing Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS to the Boston Red Sox.

• From the Elias Sports Bureau: Eleven teams, out of 72, have won a best-of-seven series when trailing three games to one. However, if the Yankees are going be the 12th team, then they're going to have to do it by winning games six and seven on the road. The last two teams to do that were the 2004 Red Sox (ALCS against the Yankees) and the 2003 Florida Marlins (NLCS against the Chicago Cubs).

• More from the Elias Sports Bureau: This is the first time in Yankees postseason history that they've lost three straight postseason games, all by at least five runs.

• Mark Teixeira is 0-14 in the ALCS. If he's unable to return because of his hamstring injury, it would be the most at-bats without a hit in a postseason series by a Yankee. The current mark is held by Joe Collins, who went 0-for-12 in the 1952 World Series.
Today’s Trivia: On this date in 1993, Nolan Ryan made the final appearance of his career. No active pitcher even has half of his career strikeout total. However, four active pitchers have 2,000 career strikeouts. Can you name them?

Quick Hits: On Tuesday, the Arizona Diamondbacks struck out six times to reach 1,403 on the season. That broke the single-season record of 1,399 set by the 2001 Milwaukee Brewers.

• The Diamondbacks have played 65 games this season where they have struck out at least 10 times; that's 17 more than the team with the second most. Even that 2001 Brewers team only had 56 of them. Not surprisingly, the Diamondbacks are just 15-50 when fanning at least 10 times.

• They’ve only had nine games of striking out five times or fewer. Since 1920, the fewest such games is 17 by those 2001 Brewers. This season, the Florida Marlins have the next fewest with 24. By contrast, the Chicago White Sox have 82.

• They’ve already set a record by having five players with 130 or more strikeouts. The 2002 Chicago Cubs and 1991 and 1992 Detroit Tigers claimed the old record with four.

Reynolds• Mark Reynolds already has his third straight 200-strikeout season, but he’s all but secured an even more embarrassing statistic. With 202 strikeouts and a .203 batting average, it seems extremely likely that he won’t hit his strikeout total. Even Rob Deer didn’t do that back in 1991 when he struck out 175 times and hit .179. In fact, the "record" total of strikeouts that was above a player’s batting average belongs to pitcher Dean Chance. In 1968, he struck out 63 times while hitting .054. Among position players, it’s never happened to a player who actually recorded a hit.

• Reynolds has fanned 629 times since 2008. Among pitchers, only Tim Lincecum, Dan Haren, CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander have more strikeouts than that.

• In 2002, the Los Angeles Angels won the World Series after striking out only 805 times in the regular season. Even if you didn’t count their outfielders, the Diamondbacks have already exceeded that total.

• As researcher Mark Simon points out, the Diamondbacks are averaging a strikeout every 4.1 plate appearances. That's roughly equal to the career rate of Jim Thome, the man with the second most strikeouts of all time.

Today’s Leaderboard: Not surprisingly, Reynolds strikes out at the highest rate in the league in addition to having the most strikeouts. So who is the toughest to strike out? Among qualifying players, that distinction belongs to Jeff Keppinger.

Key Matchups
• On July 31, the Texas Rangers beat the Angels 2-1 as Rich Harden outdueled Dan Haren, who was making his second start since getting traded. At that point the Rangers were 25-22 on the road. Since then, Texas is just 10-19 away from home. Which brings us back to Haren, who is scheduled to start Wednesday against the Rangers. The key hit in that July game was a two-run home run by Vladimir Guerrero. He’s a .414 career hitter against Haren, and no one has more career home runs (three) or RBI (10) against the Angels hurler.

• Just 9-11 in September, the Atlanta Braves look to avoid the sweep against the Philadelphia Phillies. They’ll have to deal with Roy Oswalt, who is 7-0 with a 1.41 ERA in his last eight starts. However, Oswalt is 0-3 with a 7.58 ERA in seven career starts against the Braves, the only NL team (besides Houston) that he’s yet to defeat. Atlanta might find its offense from an unlikely source. Alex Gonzalez is 10-for-23 lifetime against Oswalt with a pair of homers. That .435 average is fourth-best among those who have faced him 20 times.

Trivia Answer: Jamie Moyer, Javier Vazquez, Andy Pettitte and Tim Wakefield are the only active pitchers with 2,000 career strikeouts. Moyer is one of three active players who struck out against Ryan.

Rays ready for final meeting with Red Sox

September, 8, 2010
The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays finish up their season series tonight at 7 ET in the first game of our Wednesday Night Baseball doubleheader on ESPN.

Matt Garza gets the call for the Rays as they try to keep pace with the Yankees in the race for not only the AL East title but also the best record in the majors. Garza carved his name in the franchise record books in August, posting a 1.27 ERA in August that was the second-lowest in any month in Rays history, just behind Scott Kazmir’s 1.22 in May 2008.

His run of overpowering performances actually started in late July when he became the first pitcher in Rays history to throw a no-hitter - during a Monday Night Baseball game on ESPN July 26. Including the no-no, Garza has gone 4-2 with a 1.58 ERA in his last eight starts, posting the third-best ERA in the majors over that time span.

In case he needs any more confidence heading into the game tonight, he only has to recall his past matchups against the Red Sox. He owns a 7-3 record in 17 career starts versus Boston, which is the fifth-best winning percentage against the franchise among players that debuted in the last 70 seasons (min. 17 starts). Only Gaylord Perry (22-5), Allie Reynolds (24-9), John Buzhardt (10-4) and Bobby Witt (12-5) have better records than Garza - and none of those pitchers beat the Red Sox twice in the same playoff series, as Garza did in the 2008 ALCS.

With the Red Sox playoff hopes virtually extinguished following their 14-5 loss to the Rays Tuesday night - which left them seven and a half games back in the Wild Card Race - Terry Francona announced Tim Wakefield as the starter for tonight's game in place of Clay Buchholz, who was originally slated to pitch on short rest in a last-ditch push for the postseason.

Buchholz certainly would have given the Red Sox a legitimate chance to win the game, since he finished August with a 1.03 ERA, which was the fifth-lowest by a Red Sox pitcher since 1913 when earned runs were first tracked. His 1.88 career ERA vs the Rays is also the second-best by any pitcher that has made at least five starts against the team.

Yet, the 44-year-old Wakefield is not a bad second choice, despite the struggles that have plagued him in 2010. Not only are his 20 wins against the Rays the most of any pitcher versus the franchise, his .769 winning percentage (20-6) is the highest among the dozen pitchers with at least 15 decisions against the team.

He's also a masterful 10-2 career against the Rays at Fenway Park, with a couple of eight-inning, no-run gems. But that comes with a caution: Evan Longoria is 6-for-11 with a home run and three walks against the knuckleballer.

It's not just Longoria and Garza that have enjoyed a lot of success against their AL East rival. The Rays have collectively fared well against the Red Sox this season, winning 11 of 17 matchups, including six of seven games in Beantown. Both of those win totals are their most against the more-storied franchise in the 13 seasons since Tampa joined the league in 1998.

Need even more evidence of the Rays' recent surge against the Red Sox? They are 27-17 versus Boston dating back to June 30, 2008...and that is the best record by ANY American League team against the Red Sox since that date.

The Hunt For October continues tonight as the Rays and Red Sox battle in the first game of a Wednesday Night Baseball doubleheader at 7 ET on ESPN.

1st Pitch: Pirates futility streak poised to continue

August, 20, 2010
Today’s Trivia: A Pittsburgh Pirates loss tonight would be loss No. 82 for the team, assuring them of an 18th straight losing season – an historic record across the four major sports. Flash back to 1992, the last time the Pirates had a winning year. Here’s your three-part trivia question:

Which manager (still managing today) led them to a 96-66 record that year?

Which pitcher (still pitching today) went 8-1 with a 2.15 ERA for them that year?

Which batter (now MANAGING today) managed just a .196 BA for them before being released in May?

Quick Hits: More on the Pirates and their amazing string of futility:

In the 17 seasons of the Pirates' drought, the New York Yankees have NEVER had a losing season. In fact, in a tremendous coincidence, the last time the Yankees had a losing season was the last time the Pirates had a winning season – 1992.

The Atlanta Braves have finished with only two losing seasons during that span, both of them happening in the last five years (2006 and 2008).

One big change for the Pirates between the winning season of 1992 and the losing season of 1993? No Barry Bonds. A free agent, Bonds left for the San Francisco Giants and the Pirates haven’t topped .500 since.

But if you’re going to call it “The Bonds Curse” you might need to call it “The Drabek Curse” too. Doug Drabek finished fifth in Cy Young voting for that 1992 Pirates team, then bolted in free agency to the Houston Astros. Unlike Bonds, Drabek was never the same. He never reached the 15 wins or 2.77 ERA he had with the 1992 Pirates.

How about a milestone to cap it off: during the streak of futility, the Pirates have lost 1,599 games – tonight would be loss No. 1,600. Johan Santana has a .663 career win percentage, best of any active pitcher. For Santana to rack up as many losses as the Pirates have in their losing span, he’d have to pitch and get a decision in every single game for more than 29 straight regular seasons (4,744 games).

Finally, during the Pirates' losing span, Pittsburgh fans have been used to counting down the days until the NFL and NHL seasons start. In those 17 years, the Steelers have 13 winning seasons and two Super Bowl wins. The Penguins also have 13 winning seasons and a Stanley Cup.

Today’s Leaderboard: We’re dedicating today’s leaderboard to the unofficial MLB leaders in bouncing back from a team slump this season. The award thus far goes to the Cincinnati Reds, who shook off getting swept at home by the St. Louis Cardinals by simply running off two sweeps of their own. That continues a trend all year for the Reds. They’ve only been swept four times, but each time, they’ve bounced back to either sweep or win their next series.

Since 2000, the longest team win streak after getting swept (min. three-game sweep) belongs to the Boston Red Sox, who reeled off 12 straight in June 2006 on the heels of getting swept in Minneapolis.

Key Matchups: Of all the pitchers in MLB whom Jimmy Rollins is familiar with, would you guess that Jason Marquis is his biggest nemesis? There are 23 pitchers that Rollins has faced at least 35 times, including such aces as Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez. But it’s Marquis whom Rollins has the lowest BA (.139) and slugging percentage (.167) against.

Brian Duensing has to be psyched to throw against the Angels tonight – he’s faced nine of them in his career and they’ve had little-to-no success. Those batters, from Bobby Abreu to Reggie Willits, are a combined 4-22 (.182 BA) with three strikeouts against Duensing. None of them have an extra-base hit off him.

Every Cardinal who bats against Giants starter Madison Bumgarner will be making his first career plate appearance against Bumgarner. So let’s take a look at what might be in the scouting report: he’s even better out of the stretch. Bumgarner has buckled down and pitched better when runners are on base this season – a .319 opponents BA with the bases empty and just a .208 with runners on.

Trivia Answer: Current Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland was at the helm of that 1992 Pirates team.

Current Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield had that blistering record and ERA, finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting.

And current Arizona Diamondbacks manager (and former MVP) Kirk Gibson had a cup of coffee with the Pirates that season. He was released and then temporarily retired before signing with the Tigers for the next season to begin the twilight of his playing career.
A lot of history was made on Saturday north of the border in the MLB's highest-scoring game of the season. The Toronto Blue Jays hit eight home runs, two shy of their franchise and major-league record 10 set back in 1987 against Baltimore.

The biggest story of the 17-11 win for the Jays over the Tampa Bay Rays was a player making his major-league debut. J.P. Arencibia had 31 HR in 379 AB at Triple-A Las Vegas this season before being called up Wednesday when John Buck (right thumb) went on the 15-day DL. The 24-year old was the 21st overall pick in the 2007 draft and Arencibia made the most of his day at the plate, hitting two HR, including one off of the first pitch he ever saw as a big leaguer. He's the second player to do that this season, the other being Boston's Daniel Nava on June 12.

Arencibia is the 6th player in the last 30 seasons to have 4+ hits in his MLB debut, and the second this season joining Wilson Ramos, then of the Twins. He is also the first player with 2+ HR in his MLB debut since the Royals' Mark Quinn in 1999. Both homers were on first-pitch fastballs.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that Arencibia is the first player in the modern era (since 1900) with four hits AND two HR in his major-league debut.

It's unfair to expect him to keep that pace up in the majors but it's worth nothing that his minor-league .639 slugging clip this season has been topped by 300-AB catchers just three times in MLB history: Javy Lopez (2003), Ivan Rodriguez (2000) and Rudy York (1937).

For those curious, his last name is pronounced "air-in-SEE-bee-uh". If he's going to become a household name, we better start learning how to say it.

And then there's James Shields, who allowed six of those Toronto homers before being pulled after four innings. Shields is just the 3rd pitcher in the Divisional Era (since 1969 when the mound was also lowered) to give up six HR in a game. Shields surpasses Rodrigo Lopez and Dan Haren for the ML HR allowed lead with 28.

Six homers are a lot. But the three NON-home runs that Shields allowed on Saturday were all doubles. Thus he gave up nine hits, ALL for extra bases. Since 1920, the Florida Marlins' Ricky Nolasco is the only other pitcher to do that (9+ H, all XBH). That was April 17, 2008, when he allowed four HR, four doubles, and a triple.

1st Pitch: Career All-Star snubs

July, 2, 2010
Quick Hits: The All-Star rosters will be unveiled on Sunday. A year ago, Tim Wakefield, then 42, was selected for the first time in his career. With 188 wins at the time, he was the winningest pitcher of the All-Star era never to have made the team. With his selection, that distinction returned to Mike Torrez and his 185 career wins. Let’s look at some other notable active players who have never been selected:
  • With 135 career wins, Jeff Suppan is the winningest active pitcher never to make an All-Star Game.
  • Suppan is followed by Darren Oliver and A.J. Burnett, both of whom have won 106 games. An interesting case can be made for Oliver and his 1.49 ERA, which is third among AL relievers.
  • Of the 74 active pitchers with 1,000 career innings, Burnett has the lowest ERA (3.92) among those never selected.
  • Most notably snubbed in 2002 and 2008, Pat Burrell has the most career home runs (272).
  • Adrian Beltre, who ranks second in the majors in batting average and leads all AL third basemen in OPS, has the second most career home runs (262) among active players without an All-Star bid.
  • A snub in 2009, Huston Street’s 130 saves are the most among active pitchers who have never been.
  • Among those with 3,000 career plate appearances, Nick Markakis (.298) has the highest career batting average. He barely qualifies though. He had his 3,000th career plate appearance last night.
  • Travis Hafner has the highest career OPS (.903) for any player in major league history never selected as an All-Star (among those to play in the All-Star era). With four 100-RBI seasons, he’s the only active player with more than two who has never made it. In 2006, he hit .322 with 25 home runs – including a record 5 grand slams – but didn’t make the team.
Today’s Trivia: Who was the last player to win the Cy Young Award after having not been an All-Star that season?

Today’s Leaderboard: For the first time this season, Tim Wakefield and Jamie Moyer – and their combined 90 years of age - are starting on the same day. On May 7, they both pitched, but Wakefield was in relief. So perhaps it’s fitting that Moyer can make some history (again). First, he could pick up his 10th win of the season. It would be his 16th time reaching that total, but just the second time he’s done it before the break. Moyer is going for his 104th win after turning 40, while Wakefield goes for his 41st. Moyer would tie Jack Quinn for the 2nd-most wins after turning 40.

Key Matchups: The Diamondbacks young trio of Justin Upton, Chris Young and Mark Reynolds have combined to hit .163 against Hiroki Kuroda. In 49 at-bats, they’ve struck out 22 times. Perhaps not the welcome to the ranks of big league managers that Kirk Gibson was hoping for.

Chris Iannetta is 6-for-12 in his career against Tim Lincecum. He’s also walked eight times and twice been hit by a pitch against the two-time Cy Young winner. That gives Iannetta a .727 on-base percentage. He’s managed to reach base in all eight games in which they’ve faced one another.

Trivia Answer: In 2004, Johan Santana was just 7-6 with a 3.78 ERA at the break. He went on to win the Cy Young after going 13-0 with a 1.21 ERA in the second half. Jimmy Rollins in 2007 is the last player to win MVP after not being an All-Star.

1st Pitch: The league leaders you never see

June, 30, 2010
Quick Hits: Not all statistical categories are created equal, but they all have a leader. Let’s take a look at some of the more obscure – and in some cases meaningless – league leaders.
  • On Tuesday, David Murphy reached base by catcher’s interference for the third time this season, which leads the majors. The last player with more than 3 in a season? Edwin Encarnacion who had four in 2007.
  • Derek Jeter leads the majors with 181 ground balls, 22 more than the next player, according to STATS LLC. Having led the majors with 316 in 2009, Jeter is on pace for 385 grounders this season.
  • Carlos Lee is tops with 114 fly balls, though Rod Barajas has 108 in 89 fewer at-bats than Lee.
  • Vladimir Guerrero has swung at the first pitch 152 times, which is 14 more than Vernon Wells. Over the last 35 years, the most first pitch swings in a season belongs to Nomar Garciaparra (381 in 2003).
  • Rafael Betancourt and Carlos Villanueva have both had three batters reach on a strikeout. Yet, it hasn’t happened to Tim Wakefield this season. He is the active leader in that category with 46 in his career.
  • Zack Greinke has had the most batters reach on an error (8), but not the most unearned runs. That would be Felipe Paulino with 11.
  • Ross Ohlendorf leads the majors with four pickoff errors, which is more than every other team except the Tigers.
  • The Dodgers have had seven hitters reach on a strikeout, a huge number when you consider that 26 of 30 teams have three or fewer.
  • Dave Bush leads the majors with seven sacrifice flies against with seven. But how about the Diamondbacks’ Carlos Rosa? He’s given up five sac flies in just 13.1 innings of work.
  • Derek Lowe is on pace to issue 18 intentional walks, which would be the most since Roger McDowell’s 20 in 1991.
  • Justin Verlander has had the most pitches fouled off with 370.
Today’s Trivia: Denard Span tied the modern record with three triples in a game on Tuesday, the first player to do that since Rafael Furcal in 2002. Who holds the record for most at-bats in a season without a triple?

Today’s Leaderboard: Dustin Pedroia leads the majors having fouled off 294 pitches, according to Inside Edge. That accounts for 46.7 percent of the swings he’s taken. Ichiro Suzuki (271) is the only other player with more than 260 fouls this season.

Key Matchups: Paul Konerko is the batter that Zack Greinke has faced most in his career. He’s held the White Sox slugger to a .137 batting average in 51 at-bats. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the second lowest batting average in a matchup between two current AL players (min. 40 at-bats). Nick Swisher’s .111 in 45 AB against John Lackey is the only one worse.

Of the 27 times that Adrian Gonzalez and Jeff Francis have done battle, the Padres slugger has struck out 11 times, or 40.7 percent of the time. That’s his highest K rate against any pitcher he’s faced at least 20 times. Overall, Gonzalez has hit .154 with a .454 OPS against Francis. The two haven’t faced off since 2008, but Francis has struck out Gonzalez in five of the last six at-bats and retired him nine times in a row.

Trivia Answer: Aaron Hill was without a triple in 682 at-bats last season, which set a record according the Elias Sports Bureau. In fact, he is in the midst of a streak of 1,394 consecutive at-bats without a triple. It’s rather ironic for a player whose first career hit was a triple.