Red Sox lose their way in Seattle

SEATTLE -- Tim Wakefield came up short for the fourth consecutive time in his bid for career win No. 200.

Even so, it wouldn't be a bad idea for the Boston Red Sox to heed what their knuckleballer said after Sunday's 5-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners that clinched their first series loss since late June.

He said trying to get win No. 200 isn't on his radar. Not even close.

"I'm trying to make quality starts," Wakefield said. "This is the time of the year when it's time to win games."

It's true every August, and never more so than now, when the Red Sox are six weeks from the end of the regular season and find themselves just one half-game up on the New York Yankees in the American League East.

And up next are the Tampa Bay Rays for a three-game series starting with a day-night doubleheader Tuesday in Fenway Park. The Rays are the only team in the AL East against whom the Red Sox don't have a winning record.

"We didn't play well here," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "We've got to play better."

Well, that about sums it up. Mind you, the Red Sox didn't get much help along the way, especially Sunday. With one run already in during the Seattle third, Mariners base runner Kyle Seager was called safe on first baseman Adrian Gonzalez's throw to shortstop Jed Lowrie. That extended the inning and Seattle had a 3-0 lead off Wakefield before the frame was over.

"When he was called safe, I was in shock," Lowrie said. "I literally didn't know what to say. I watched all the video, and I'm on the bag with the ball every time.

"It's easy to look back and say, 'What if?' but you do expect the game to be called right."

That third inning, which started with a walk of Casper Wells, a steal and a throwing error, then back-to-back hits by Jack Wilson and Seager, wound up defining the game. For the third time in as many days, the Red Sox found themselves behind by at least three runs to the worst offense in the major leagues.

On Friday, Boston was able to club its way back to a win. On Saturday and Sunday, it couldn't.

The Red Sox have the highest-scoring offense in the league. Even so, they're asking for trouble when they consistently face early holes.

Pitching coach Curt Young didn't want to break it down to an offense-versus-pitching situation.

"I don't think it's a matter of worrying about comebacks," Young said. "If as a team we play nine good innings, we're going to be ahead most of the time. And I'm pretty sure we're going to pitch well enough to have us competitive."

Wakefield did that. He threw a complete game, gave up five runs (four earned as Lowrie was charged with an error when Seager was ruled safe by umpire Ed Hickox) and kept the bullpen fresh heading into Tuesday's doubleheader.

"I thought he pitched good and threw really well," catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said of Wakefield. "Things didn't go his way. There was a call we didn't get, but he kept us in the game. And he saved the bullpen in case we need them Tuesday."

And even though Wakefield didn't get No. 200, he's not about to obsess over it.

"The first couple of times meant more than now," Wakefield said of his attempts for the milestone. "Now I'm just going out there trying to find a way to help us win. I'm just trying for a good quality start. Sometimes stupid things happen."

Of the third inning, Wakefield said, "On the walk [to Wells], I thought it was strike three. After that, I was just trying to survive. They scored three runs. I don't know how it happened."

The Boston offense, matched up against rookie Seattle starter Charlie Furbush, didn't know quite what to make of the left-hander. Furbush didn't give up a hit until the fourth inning, when Boston got its only run off him on a Lowrie sacrifice fly. Furbush lasted seven innings, turning a 5-1 lead over to the Mariners' bullpen.

Back in the lineup after two days off because of back trouble, Kevin Youkilis cranked out a two-run homer in the eighth off reliever Jeff Gray to get the Red Sox within two runs, but Boston never got closer, with Brandon League finishing up for Seattle with a 1-2-3 ninth.

After that, manager Terry Francona was ready to put the unexpected results of this series behind him and point toward the Rays.

"We have a day off, and we'll regroup," he said. "We've got to be ready for three against Tampa."

John Hickey is a contributor to ESPNBoston.com.