By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
KANSAS CITY The fifth time was far from the charm for Tim Wakefield and his trusty knuckleball in the pitchers personal quest for 200 career wins.
Wakefield was once again denied in his attempt to become the only active 200 game-winner in the big leagues despite carrying a 4-1 lead into the sixth inning, and instead helplessly watched a complete bullpen meltdown lead to a 9-4 drubbing at the hands of the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Wakefield was cruising into the sixth frame with six hits and only a single run allowed to Kansas City, but the Royals started punishing the 45-year-old twirler once he neared the 90-pitch range. After a Billy Butler strikeout to start the frame Eric Hosmer, Jeff Francouer and Mike Moustakas each tagged Wakefield for a hit and closed it to a one-run game with Wakefields milestone and a three-game Sox winning streak on the line.
Terry Francona pulled Wakefield from the game and instead called on a struggling Matt Albers, who imploded on the Kansas City mound after showing plenty of signs of struggle over the last few weeks. Albers recorded only one out and allowed four runs on three hits and a pair of walks while doing a fascinating impersonation of a batting practice pitcher as his ERA ballooned to 3.71 for the season.
Albers is sporting a bloated 11.25 ERA in seven appearances and eight innings pitched during the month of August, and appears in danger of falling out of favor in the Sox bullpen.
The big blow was an Alex Gordon double to left-center field that ripped things open for the Royals, and it was much too late by the time Franklin Morales entered the game for the Sox.
The disastrous eight-run sixth inning tied for their worst of the season wiped out solid offensive performances from the bottom third of the lineup and the first two-hit game and Major League RBI for rookie Ryan Lavarnway.
Player of the Game: Alex Gordon has been a thorn in Bostons side all season, and that continued on Saturday night with a game-high three hits, two doubles and 2 RBI during the great Wakefieldbullpen implosion of 2011. Not only is Gordon really breaking through to another level of baseball stardom in Kansas City, but hes turned into a certified Red Sox killer while hitting .360 (31-for-86) with 15 extra base hits and 15 RBI and an OPS over 1.000 in 24 career games against Boston.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Lavarnway picked up a couple of hits and his first Major League RBI in defeat, and has displayed some pretty mature approaches at the plate over the last couple of games. It appears that the designated hittercatcherright-handed bat is going to be able to help out the Sox while they wait for some of their injured players to return to the fold.
The Goat: Matt Albers walked one of the most wildly free-swinging hitters in the Major Leagues, Salvador Perez, upon entering a jam in the sixth inning while protecting a one-run lead, and he threw gasoline on the fire from there. Albers finished with four runs and three hits allowed in 13 of an inning and took the loss in one of Bostons worst innings this season. Albers has an 11.25 ERA in seven games during the month of August, and it might be time for Sox manager Terry Francona to give Dan Wheeler a look in that bullpen role directly behind Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon.
Turning Point: Tim Wakefield had the game well in hand with a 4-1 lead heading into the sixth inning and got one out very quickly, but he couldnt get through the sixth to protect his 200th career win. Once the Royals put up two quick runs on Wakefield and dug into the Sox bullpen, the game was essentially over and Wakefields search for 200 career wins reached at least six games.
By the Numbers: 10 the number of scoreless games in a row that Dan Wheeler has tossed for the Red Sox while pitching his best baseball of the season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: Im not frustrated. It hasnt happened in the last five starts. Im trying to treat it like its a normal start, and Im just trying to give us quality innings and quality starts. I had a bad sixth inning. Tim Wakefield, who appeared the picture of frustration after his chances for his 200th career win fell apart in the sixth inning.