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Friday, June 5, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

Wakefield Baffles Mariners With His Dazzling Floater

By Larry Larue Tacoma News Tribune

It was a night of opposites that didn’t attract - 95 mph fastballs, 65 mph knuckleballs.

Seattle had the speed, Boston had the power. The Red Sox had offense, the Mariners defense, some of it spectacular.

And in the end, Randy Johnson had to admit that on this night he was outpitched by a man whose pitches stayed under the legal speed limit in Massachusetts, and Tim Wakefield threw a complete-game shutout as Boston beat Seattle 4-0.

“Knuckleballers are either really good or really bad, there’s no in-between,” manager Lou Piniella said. “Tonight, Tim Wakefield was really good. I’ve never seen a knuckleballer throw more strikes, change speeds better, control his pitches.”

On a summer evening when the Mariners offense consisted of five hits, four of those never left the infield.

“He was throwing an eephus knuckler,” Mike Blowers said of Wakefield. “Some of them looked about 55 mph.”

“He threw one pitch that started at my neck and I took it and it crossed the plate at my knees,” rookie Jose Cruz Jr. said.

“You can’t sit on that pitch because you don’t know what the hell it’s going to do,” said Russ Davis, whose triple was the only truly hard-hit ball Seattle had.

With no offense to speak of, the talk afterward was of Seattle’s defense - of Jay Buhner and the two plays he made which stole home runs from Red Sox hitters.

“The first was pretty,” said Norm Charlton, who saw both up close and in person from the Mariners dugout beyond right field. “The second was pretty spectacular.”

On the first, a fourth-inning blast by Mike Stanley, Buhner raced to the wall, leaped and speared the ball as it sailed toward that bullpen - preserving Johnson’s shutout and taking away what would have been Stanley’s 13th home run.

By the eighth inning, this one was nearly over. Boston had ridden Mo Vaughn’s 24th home run, a two-run shot in the fifth inning, to a 4-0 lead and Wakefield was clearly in control.

Against reliever Edwin Hurtado, Boston catcher Scott Hatteberg hit a fastball toward the bullpen beyond the right-field wall - and Buhner took off in pursuit once again. This time his leap took him higher, and as he caught the ball, fully extended, he hit that padded fence a little lower than waist-high.

It flipped him into the bullpen, beyond the wall and out of sight of the playing field for an instant.

“It sounded like a bull in a corral, banging around,” reliever Felipe Lira said.

Buhner hopped back over the fence, held the ball aloft, and umpire Drew Coble gave the out sign.

“Last time we were here I missed a play like that and I asked the umpire what would happen if I caught the ball and went over,” Buhner said. “He explained it, and tonight that’s what happened. I caught the ball before I went over, then I just had to get back on the field so he could see I still had the ball.”

On the short list of Seattle highlights Tuesday, those two catches were about it.

Johnson (14-3) not only was beaten, which has been rare, he was done in by left-handed hitters - nearly unprecedented in modern “Big Unit” history.

In his major league career, lefthanded batters had a .194 average before this season, and coming into this game they were batting .267 this season. In 253 previous major league games, Johnson had allowed seven home runs to left-handed hitters.

Make that eight.

“Mo Vaughn isn’t your average left-handed hitter,” Piniella pointed out.

And he was mildly upset, anyway. In the first inning, Johnson came inside with a fastball and hit Vaughn on the right arm. In the fifth, Johnson threw another fastball, and Vaughn hit it more than 400 feet.

“I didn’t pitch a good game, Wakefield pitched a much better game and he deserved to win,” Johnson said. “He didn’t give up any runs, I could have given up one and lost. I didn’t pitch a bad game, just bad enough to lose.”

In defeat, the M’s lost ground in the American League West, and despite a rock-solid road trip - they’re 5-2 so far - the Anaheim Angels have closed to within 1 games of first place, and on Tuesday night picked up not just a game but a starting pitcher in Ken Hill.

Red Sox 4, Mariners 0 Seattle AB R H BI BB SO Avg. Cora 2b 4 0 0 0 0 0 .325 ARodriguez ss 4 0 2 0 0 1 .314 Griffey Jr cf 4 0 0 0 0 1 .294 EMartinez dh 3 0 0 0 1 1 .324 Buhner rf 4 0 0 0 0 1 .246 Sorrento 1b 4 0 1 0 0 2 .281 DaWilson c 2 0 0 0 1 0 .283 RDavis 3b 3 0 1 0 0 0 .295 Cruz Jr lf 3 0 1 0 0 0 .270 Totals 31 0 5 0 2 6 Boston AB R H BI BB SO Avg. Garciaparra ss 5 1 2 1 0 1 .300 JhValentin 3b 3 0 0 0 2 1 .302 Vaughn 1b 3 1 2 2 0 1 .330 Stanley dh 4 0 0 0 0 1 .307 Cordero lf 3 0 0 0 1 3 .284 Frye 2b 3 1 2 0 1 1 .296 Mack cf 2 0 0 0 0 0 .311 Bragg cf 0 0 0 0 0 0 .268 Hatteberg c 4 0 1 1 0 1 .269 Tavarez rf 4 1 1 0 0 0 .154 Totals 31 4 8 4 4 9 Seattle 000 000 000 0 Boston 000 031 00x 4 ECruz Jr (3), RaJohnson (2). LOBSeattle 6, Boston 10. 2BGarciaparra 2 (27), Frye (15), Tavarez (2). 3BRDavis (1). HRMVaughn (24) off RaJohnson. RBIsGarciaparra (59), MVaughn 2 (58), Hatteberg (25). CSARodriguez (3), JhValen tin (3). SMack.

Runners left in scoring position-Seattle 3 (ARodriguez, Sorrento, Cruz Jr); Boston 6 (JhValentin, MVaughn 2, Hatteberg 3).

Runners moved up-Mack.

Seattle IP H R ER BB SO NP ERA RaJohnson L,14-3 7 7 4 4 4 9 137 2.40 Hurtado 1 1 0 0 0 0 15 8.84 Boston IP H R ER BB SO NP ERA Wakefield W,5-12 9 5 0 0 2 6 125 4.23 HBP-by RaJohnson (Mack), by RaJohnson (MVaughn).

T-2:19. A-33,293 (33,925).

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