It started out as the Wake and Bake show at Fenway Park on Friday night, and in the end it was the Red Sox and Terry Francona quaking in the throes of a blowout loss to the Twins. Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and his manager were sent to the showers by the fifth, Scott Baker was strong through eight, and Minnesota prevailed 9-2. It was Boston’s third-straight defeat, while the visitors won their third in a row.
The Twins got on the board in the first inning when Trevor Plouffe deposited a Wakefield knuckleball into the Green Monster seats. They tacked on three more in the second, courtesy of a seeing-eye single and the play that led to Francona's ouster. Michael Cuddyer drew a lead-off walk, Danny Valencia and Ben Revere singled, and after a Drew Butera pop out and an Alexi Casilla strikeout, Denard Span grounded a ball just past first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to make it 3-0. That’s when things got heated.
Wakefield proceeded to catch Span with a fake-to third-throw-to-first move, only to have home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez call a balk, negating the pick-off and bringing in Revere from third. Francona was livid, racing onto the field to go jaw-to-jaw with Hernandez and promptly getting ejected. A side-to-side dance followed, with crew chief Joe West repeatedly stepping between the two as the animated skipper continued to seek an explanation that satisfied him, if not justice. He got neither.
“I never did get an explanation,” said a frustrated Francona after the game. “I got thrown out because I came out, and since I was already thrown out I figured I could get an explanation, but Joe wouldn’t let me.
“Joe, as we all know, always wants to be in everybody’s business. That was me and Angel; Joe didn’t have anything to do with it. I didn’t really appreciate what he did…It’s kind of hard to sit there and not find out what happened in a play like that. I’ve seen Wake do that 30 times.”
There appeared to be some contact between Francona and West, which could result in a suspension, although according to the Boston manager, it was not of his own doing. “[West] was grabbing me,” said Francona. I thought that was wrong. I thought he was out of line.”
Once the game resumed, it was all Twins. The Red Sox got runs back in the second and the fourth, courtesy of home runs by J.D. Drew and Adrian Gonzalez to make it 4-2, but then the roof caved in. In the top of the fifth, Valencia hit a bases-loaded wall-ball double to score Plouffe and Justin Morneau, ending Wakefield‘s night. Alfredo Aceves came in to retire Revere for the second out of the inning, only to have Jed Lowrie let a ground ball by Butera go right through him for a two-run error. It was 8-2 Twins, with nothing left but garbage time.
On a night where nothing went right for his team, Francona did close his post-game press conference with a bit of levity. Asked about an Aceves balk that let in the final run of the game, he deadpanned: “That was about as much of a balk as you’re going to see. I wanted to run back out and tell [the umpire] he got it right.”