BOSTON — Another Red Sox pitcher goes on the disabled list, and Tim Wakefield just keeps trotting out to the mound.
The oldest active player in the majors – he’ll be 45 in less than a month – Wakefield earned his 198th career victory on Wednesday night, scattering nine hits over seven innings to lead Boston to a 6-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
“He was pitching the best I’ve seen him so far,” said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who chased three of Wakefield’s knucklers to the backstop for passed balls. “He’s definitely a guy that deserves to be in the rotation.”
Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis had three extra-base hits apiece as the Red Sox won for the sixth time in seven games. Wakefield (5-3) allowed three runs, struck out seven and walked one, providing the team a boost as it tries to cobble together a rotation without Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
“He stepped in and pitched professionally,” manager Terry Francona said. “It’s sure nice to have a guy like that.”
The longest-tenured member of the Red Sox, Wakefield started the season without a spot in the rotation but has made 20 appearances, including 11 starts, because of injuries to other Boston starters. The latest was Lester, who went on the DL before Wednesday’s game, a day after leaving after four innings with a strained muscle in his back.
The day before that, John Lackey lasted just 2 1-3 innings.
“I know I had to go deep in the game tonight because the bullpen had been taxed lately,” Wakefield said. “As a starting pitcher, it’s something you take a lot of pride in.”
The Red Sox said after the game that Lester had an MRI that confirmed a strained latissimus muscle; he will be re-evaluated after the All-Star break. Doctors also confirmed Buchholz’s strained lower back can be treated with rehabilitation.
Francona said the news on both was good.
“Yeah,” he said. “Really good.”
Ricky Romero (7-8) gave up six runs and nine hits in 4 1-3 innings for Toronto. He surrendered leadoff homers in the first two innings, to Ellsbury and Youkilis, and allowed five straight hits – three of them doubles – as Boston scored four times in the fourth inning.
The game was delayed by rain with two outs in the top of the eighth inning, Boston leading 6-3 and Aaron Hill coming to bat. After a 40-minute delay, Dan Wheeler struck Hill out, then Jonathan Papelbon gave up one run in the ninth but earned his 19th save.
Yunel Escobar had four hits, including an RBI single in the ninth, for Toronto, which went homerless for the first time in 14 games. Jose Bautista and Travis Snider had two hits apiece.
Romero had allowed just 17 runs in his previous 75 2-3 innings, but he has struggled against the Red Sox. In 11 career starts vs. Boston, he is 2-6 with an 8.08 ERA – his worst numbers against any team.
“This is not the way I wanted to end the first half, like this,” Romero said. “I know I’m good enough to pitch against any team. … I’m looking forward to facing them next time and hopefully I’m successful.”
The solo homers gave Boston a 2-1 lead before the Blue Jays made it 3-2 in the third on a sacrifice fly by Bautista and Adam Lind’s RBI single. But with two out in the fourth, J.D. Drew doubled, then Darnell McDonald and Saltalamacchia singled and Yamaico Navarro and Ellsbury doubled to give Boston a 6-3 lead.
Youkilis left Monday’s game after being hit by a pitch in the fourth inning and rested Tuesday night. He returned to the lineup on Wednesday and started at first base for the first time this season, filling in for Adrian Gonzalez, who got his first day off of the season because of a stiff neck.