On back to back days, the Yankees and the Red Sox got great pitching performances from AJ Burnett and Tim Wakefield. What made these performances great wasn’t the fact that both pitchers took no-hitters into the 7th inning, it’s the fact that these pitching performances came when their respective teams needed them the most.
On Monday, after Chien-Ming Wang gave up 6 hits and 8 runs in 1 stellar inning of work, the Yankees were forced to get 7 innings out of their bullpen. Things got so bad in the 15-5 loss to the Rays that 1B/OF, Nick Swisher had to come in and pitch an inning just to save the bullpen. The next day AJ Burnett took the ball and gave the Yankees 8 solid innings and for 7 of those innings, Burnett was unhittable. Burnett was hitting his spots and when he is hitting his spots throwing 95, I don’t care if Babe Ruth is at the plate, nobody is not going to make solid contact against Burnett. Burnett gave the bullpen a rest and more importantly got a W against division rival Tampa Bay.
As desperate as the Yankees were to get a good pitching performance, the Red Sox might have been more desperate on Wednesday afternoon. On Tuesday, Matsuzaka decided to throw softballs to A’s hitters and lasted only 1 inning. Not only did the Matsuzaka disaster make things hard for the Red Sox, the fact that the game went 12 innings made it worse. The Red Sox asked their bullpen to pitch 10.2 innings on Tuesday, which kills your bullpen for a week. Then old reliable Tim Wakefield took the mound on Wednesday and gave the Sox what they needed and more. Wakefield threw a complete game, his knuckleball was so good that he took a no-hitter into the 8th inning and got the Red Sox a much needed W. Say what you want about Wakefield but he has been nothing but Mr Reliable in his 14 years in a Red Sox uniform and has 178 career wins. That is more than Ron Guidry, Frank Viola, Bret Saberhagen and yes, Sandy Koufax.
Leave it to the games 2 biggest rivals to inadvertanly play a game of “what ever you can do, I can do better.” However, this wasn’t about that. This was 2 pitchers going out and stepping up when their teams needed them the most.