Tim Wakefield (Trading Card DB)

April 18, 2007: Wakefield, home runs put Red Sox on top of AL East

This article was written by Bill Nowlin

Tim Wakefield (Trading Card DB)With a 4-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on April 18, the 2007 Boston Red Sox claimed first place in the American League East Division and held it for a team-record 166 consecutive days, through the end of the regular season. The team went on to sweep the Colorado Rockies in the World Series, recording the seventh World Series title in franchise history.

The season was still young on April 18. Boston came into the game with a record of 7-5. The furthest the Red Sox had been out of first place was one game, after losing to the Kansas City Royals on Opening Day.1 Since then, they had spent a handful of days in first. A 2-1 loss in the first of three games in Toronto had dropped them into second, a half-game behind the Blue Jays.

Starting the second game of the series on Wednesday evening for John Gibbons and the Blue Jays was former Red Sox pitcher Tomo Ohka, in his ninth year in the United States.2 He’d struggled in his first two starts and came into the game with a 7.84 ERA. He got off to a solid start against Boston, though, facing the minimum 12 batters over the first four innings. The only Red Sox batter to reach base was Manny Ramírez on a walk to lead off the second, but he was erased on a double play.

Ohka continued his hitless string by retiring the first two batters in the top of the fifth. With two outs, nobody on, and a count of 1-and-2, third baseman Mike Lowell homered over the wall in left field. Lowell’s first home run of the season gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.

Boston manager Terry Francona had Tim Wakefield start. The knuckleballing Wakefield was in his 15th major-league season pitching and would turn 41 years old in August. He already had 152 career regular-season wins to his credit.3 Wakefield allowed a harmless single in the first inning. He retired the side in order in the second and third, but then had problems with his command in the bottom of the fourth, walking three batters to load the bases. Pitching coach John Farrell paid a visit to the mound.4 Wakefield then struck out catcher Jason Phillips.

After Lowell’s homer provided the lead, Wakefield retired the side in order in the bottom of the fifth. Doug Mirabelli – who usually caught when Wakefield was pitching – helped his batterymate with a solo home run, his second of the season, leading off the Red Sox sixth.

In the bottom of the sixth, Wakefield gave up a two-out double to DH Frank Thomas but induced first baseman Lyle Overbay to pop up to shortstop Julio Lugo.

The leadoff batter in the seventh was Boston’s DH, David Ortiz, and he kicked off the inning with another solo home run, this one also to left. A season after leading the AL with 54 homers, Ortiz had his fifth home run of 2007. It was just the third hit Ohka had allowed, but all three had been four-base hits.

One out later, J.D. Drew singled to right, and Gibbons made the call to the bullpen, bringing in Victor Zambrano to relieve Ohka.

Lowell singled to right. Crisp grounded into a force play at second, leaving the Red Sox with two outs and runners on first and third. Mirabelli singled to right-center and drove in Drew for a 4-0 Boston lead.

Wakefield set down the first two batters in the bottom of the seventh, but the Blue Jays then broke his shutout. Shortstop Royce Clayton doubled to left. Swinging at the next pitch, third baseman John McDonald singled to left field and Clayton scored. Right fielder Álex Ríos flied out to center for the third out. It was 4-1, Red Sox.

Francona went to the bullpen after seven innings and 135 pitches from Wakefield. Brendan Donnelly pitched a one-two-three eighth, capping the inning by striking out Thomas on three pitches.

In the bottom of the ninth, Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon took over. He struck out Overbay but then saw second baseman Aaron Hill ground a single up the middle. Gregg Zaun, batting for Phillips, walked on six pitches. Batting for Clayton, Jason Smith struck out on three pitches. A third pinch-hitter – Adam Lind, batting for McDonald – made the third out, striking out swinging.

Wakefield had allowed four hits and three walks but just one run. After his fourth-inning control struggles, he had gone to three-ball counts only twice. The Globe and Mail wrote that Wakefield’s “pitches don’t sizzle as much as they fizzle, wafting to the plate at pedestrian speeds that can still lay waste to many a major-league hitter. … It is like trying to corral bubbles on a blustery day.”5

“Nobody ever wants to face a knuckleballer in a dome,” Thomas said.6

Fellow Red Sox pitcher Mike Timlin had just turned 41 in March. He joked, “When I grow up, I’m going to be just like him.”7 Wakefield made 31 starts in 2007 and matched his career high with 17 wins.

With the win, Boston climbed over Toronto in the standings. They beat the Blue Jays again, 5-3, the next day, then retrained to Boston, where they swept three from the New York Yankees.

Beginning with this win, the Red Sox were 9-3 to close out April and were four games up in the AL East Division heading into May. They had a 10½-game lead at the end of May and kept that margin at the end of June.

July saw their lead drop to seven games over the second-place Yankees. It was down to five at the end of August.

As September unfolded, the lead became a bit precarious – dipping to just a game and a half on September 10 after the Red Sox lost three games in a row to the Blue Jays in Toronto – but it held. They finished first in the East, two games ahead of New York.

The Yankees played the Cleveland Indians in the AL Division Series, losing in four games while the Red Sox swept the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It was Cleveland that Boston beat in the seven-game AL Championship Series, before the Red Sox faced the magical Rockies team that had won 14 of their final 15 games and then swept the NLDS and NLCS for a total of 21-1 before they came up against a Red Sox team that swept them in the World Series itself.

After the sixth game of the 2008 season, the Red Sox were finally bumped from first place. They finished second – to Tampa Bay – in the AL East, and beat the Angels in the ALDS but lost to the Rays in the ALCS.



This article was fact-checked by Kurt Blumenau and copy-edited by Len Levin.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org. Thanks to Adrian Fung for providing Toronto newspaper accounts of the game.





1 They were also one game behind after the games of April 11.

2 Ohka had begun his US career with the Red Sox in 1999 and pitched for them until he was traded to the Montreal Expos on the last day of July in 2001.

3 Wakefield also had five postseason wins, all in League Championship Series play. He also had 22 career saves, including the 15 for the ’99 Red Sox that tied him with Derek Lowe for the team lead that year.

4 Catcher Mirabelli said Wakefield had been “jumping a little bit, hurrying to the plate.” Farrell said he needed to “sit back over the rubber a little longer and to keep his head in a more proper position.” Amalie Benjamin, “Wakefield Engineered a Mechanical Beauty,” Boston Globe, April 19, 2007: E5.

5 Robert MacLeod, “Wakefield’s Knuckler Handcuffs Jays,” Toronto Globe and Mail, April 19, 2007: S2.  

6 Allan Ryan, “Wakefield Frustrates Jays Again,” Toronto Star, April 19, 2007: B3. For his part, Wakefield said, “I’ve always loved pitching here. The mound is probably the best mound in the American League, and pitching inside is always a big plus for me. The ball moves a little bit more inside versus outside, where you’ve got a lot of weather conditions that can hinder something.” Associated Press, “No Place Like Dome for Tim,” Quincy (Massachusetts) Patriot Ledger, April 19, 2007: 17.

7 Gordon Edes, “Bats Able to Pitch In,” Boston Globe, April 19, 2007: E1.

Additional Stats

Boston Red Sox 4
Toronto Blue Jays 1

Rogers Centre
Toronto, ON


Box Score + PBP:

Corrections? Additions?

If you can help us improve this game story, contact us.


2000s ·