ATLANTA - Who would've envisioned this: Tim Wakefield joining Roger Clemens in the Boston record book?
The 42-year-old knuckleballer pitched six scoreless innings to beat the Atlanta Braves 1-0 Saturday, a worthy performance for the game that tied him with Clemens for the most career starts by a Red Sox pitcher.
'Just being mentioned with the names I'm being mentioned with is pretty cool,' said Wakefield, who made his 382nd start for Boston. 'I'm thankful I've been here as long as I have.'
Mark Kotsay drove in the game's only run with a sixth-inning single off Javier Vazquez, who certainly pitched well enough to win but got no help from the listless Atlanta offense.
The Braves have scored only one run in two games against the Red Sox this weekend, extending their losing streak to four straight and dropping a season-worst six games under .500 (34-40).
Wakefield (10-3) became the AL's third 10-game winner, joining Minnesota's Kevin Slowey and Toronto's Roy Halladay. The knuckleball was really fluttering on a sweltering day at Turner Field that was 95 degrees at first pitch.
The Braves managed just three singles off Wakefield.
'It feels really good to have 10 wins before the All-Star break,' he said.
Manny Delcarmen retired all four hitters he faced, Justin Masterson got out trouble in the eighth and Jonathan Papelbon worked around a shaky ninth to complete the four-hit shutout, his 18th save in 19 chances.
But Wakefield did the bulk of the work.
'He continues to pitch his rear end off,' manager Terry Francona said. 'That was a tough day for anybody, but he just keeps going out there doing what he's supposed to do. I'm proud of him.'
The Braves threatened against Papelbon. Brian McCann flied out to the wall in right-center and Garret Anderson doubled with two outs, but Casey Kotchman grounded out to end the game.
'It's so frustrating,' McCann said. 'This team should win more games the way our pitching is.'
The Braves didn't get a runner past second until the eighth, and they had to scratch for that. Matt Diaz walked against Masterson, moved up on a wild pitch and took third on a groundout.
Boston took advantage of a lineup weakened by injuries to Nate McLouth and Yunel Escobar. Three of Atlanta's nine hitters came into the game hitting below .200.
McCann and Gregor Blanco both stole second after reaching on Wakefield, taking advantage of his slow knuckleball. They didn't get any further. Blanco led off the sixth with another hit and moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Martin Prado, but the Boston starter retired Atlanta's most dangerous hitters: Chipper Jones with a liner to second and Brian McCann on a slow roller to first.
With that, Wakefield's work was done.
Vazquez (5-7) struck out eight to claim the NL strikeout lead from San Francisco's Tim Lincecum (125-124), but a brief spurt of wildness in the sixth was costly.
After retiring the first two Boston hitters, Vazquez issued back-to-back walks to Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz, the latter after getting ahead 0-2 in the count. Big Papi got the call on a breaking pitch that just missed the strike zone, then managed to check his swing on a 3-2 pitch that swerved inside, nearly hitting him.
Kotsay, a former Brave filling in for Jason Bay, came through with a single to left, bringing home Youkilis with the game's only run.
'Fortunately, I won the battle,' said Kotsay, who started so Bay could have the day off. '(Vazquez) could have won it just as easily.'
The pitching matchup was a contrast in styles: Vazquez's 90-plus-mph fastballs and hard breaking pitches vs. Wakefield's tantalizingly slow knucklers, usually thrown in the mid-60s and once dipping down to 59 mph on the radar gun.
Vazquez went 72/3 innings, allowing just six hits and three walks. He left after Youkilis tripled off the wall in right with two outs in the eighth, prompting the Braves to bring on lefty Eric O'Flaherty, who walked Ortiz intentionally before retiring Kotsay on a weak fly to center.
'You've got to keep battling,' Vazquez said.