Wakefield continues streak -- likely too litle too late

BOSTON (AP) -- Tim Wakefield is making a convincing case that he
should stay in the Red Sox rotation next year.

He won his fourth consecutive start, pitching Boston to a 4-2
win over the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night. He's allowed just
one earned run in his last seven games, a 1.24 ERA in that stretch.

Manager Grady Little wouldn't mind keeping Wakefield in the
rotation. Wakefield has bounced back and forth during the last
three years.

''If it were me, and just my preferences, it would be to start
him,'' Little said.

That is Wakefield's preference, although he realizes his
versatility makes him valuable.

''I've always been confident when I take the mound. This year
it's been a little bit different,'' said Wakefield, 8-2 since
joining the rotation July 23. ''I'm having a little more success
than I've had in the past.''

Boston president Larry Lucchino has noticed and told Wakefield
on Monday he wants him to retire as a Red Sox player, the pitcher

Wakefield (11-5) got support from Benny Agbayani's RBI single in
the second, Rey Sanchez's two-run double in the fourth and Manny
Ramirez's seventh homer in 11 games, an eighth-inning drive.

Ramirez took over the AL batting lead at .344, going 3-for-4.
Mike Sweeney, who started the day tied with Ramirez at .340, went
2-for-4 to improve to. 342.

Ramirez also hit his 33rd homer of the season in the eighth,
reaching 100 RBI for the fifth straight season -- despite missing
39 games after breaking his finger May 11.

''It's been pretty amazing,'' Boston's Johnny Damon said.
''Hopefully, he keeps it up, wins the batting title. He's got 100
RBI and he missed six weeks. It goes to show you. He's something

C.C. Sabathia (11-11) agreed.

''You can throw him fastballs, breaking balls, whatever,''
Sabathia said. ''He's going to hit it.''

Wakefield allowed five hits in eight innings, and Ugueth Urbina
finished for his 36th save in 41 chances. Wakefield, who hasn't
pitched a complete game since Aug. 19, 1998, at Kansas City, has
started just 17 games in each of the last three seasons.

The Indians scored in the eighth on a double by Chris Magruder
and Omar Vizquel's third single. Jim Thome added his 46th homer in
the ninth, extending his streak of reaching base to 46 games.

But the Indians frequently swung at first or second pitches.

''You don't want to get down in the count,'' Thome said of
Wakefield. ''There's really no approach to facing him.''

Cleveland rarely hit the ball hard against the knuckleballer
before then. Wakefield gave up singles to the first two batters in
the first -- Milton Bradley and Vizquel, and a single to Vizquel in
the third.

Wakefield retired 14 consecutive batters, with only four balls
leaving the infield, before Magruder led off the eighth with a

Sabathia, who had been 5-1 in his previous eight starts, allowed
eight hits in his second complete game this season -- the other was
a 4-1 loss at Anaheim on Aug. 18.

Game notes
Boston 3B Shea Hillenbrand was thrown out in the first and
fifth on grounders to 3B Travis Fryman. It appeared he may have
beaten the throw the first time, and the play was very close the
second. ... In the fourth, Tony Clark stopped at third on Sanchez's
double even though 3B coach Mike Cubbage was waving him home. Clark
was stranded when Damon ended the inning by flying out. ... Little
put up a mild protest when 1B umpire Andy Fletcher called Damon out
on a pickoff attempt. Replays showed he touched the bag before
being tagged. ... Ten of Magruder's 13 doubles have come on the