Special Guest Post by Skyline Stories (@SkylineStories)
Who's more likely to throw 8 shutout innings -- Roy Halladay, the former Cy Young award winner who leads the National League in complete games and shutouts, or Tim Wakefield, a 43-year-old knuckleballer whose last win was in July 2009?
If you picked Wakefield, then you'd be nuts. Except the improbable happened, as Wakefield bewildered the Phillies yesterday in an 8-3 win.
The last time I saw the two teams play was for Daisuke Matsuzaka's debut in a Major League ballpark in 2007, the crowd and media buzzing in anticipation of his fabled gyroball. But this was an awful game. The Phils couldn't hit, Dobbs and Hoover had costly errors, and Halladay had his worst start ever as a Phillie, per Philly.com.
Wakefield was only three innings from his first shutout since 1997, and became the oldest AL pitcher to throw that many shutout innings since fellow knuckleballer Charlie Hough in 1992, according to MLB.com. Of Wakefield's 103 slow-slower-really slow pitches (see below), most were knuckleballs that ranged from 65-68 mph, and later mixed in fastballs and curveballs (!).
Though I'm a Phillies fan, I wanted manager Terry Francona to leave him in for the shutout. Instead, he brought in Ramon Ramirez and the Phils rallied for 3 runs, too little too late. But Francona told MLB.com that Wakefield was gassed: "He said in the eighth […] he was starting to feel it. But I certainly would have let him go back out. He said he had enough."
The big concern for the Phils is Halladay. Last outing he threw an unbelievable 132 pitches, and though he looked strong in the first few innings, he didn't have as good location in the later innings. But Halladay and Manuel reject that's why Halladay had a poor outing. "[B]ody-wise I felt great, it was just a matter of making pitches," Halladay said at the press conference.
I disagree with PhilliesNation who thinks it's just one rough start against a "Red Sox team that has owned him throughout his illustrious career," and The700Level who chalks it "up to one of the five bad starts" that Doc says he's allotted. As Baseball Prospectus concluded, after 121 pitches "a manager may be gambling with that pitcher's next 4 or 5 starts at the very least."
We'll see in his next start.
Next up for the Phils are the Mets. Let's hope the Phils fare better on Tuesday night, when the Mets start R.A. Dickey -- another knuckleballer.