Wakefield pitches early to rest Schilling, Dice-K

TORONTO -- Boston manager Terry Francona wants his starting
staff to be well-rested by the time the playoffs begin.

The Red Sox will pitch Tim Wakefield in the finale of the
three-game series at Tampa Bay on Sunday, giving right-hander Curt Schilling four extra days of rest before his next start. Schilling
will pitch against Oakland on Tuesday, Sept. 25.

Boston is also giving rookie right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka
three extra days of rest before his next scheduled start, Saturday
at Tampa Bay.

"We're really trying to line up that last week and beyond,"
manager Francona said.

The Red Sox's AL East lead shrunk to 2½ games over the Yankees Tuesday after Boston fell to Toronto and New York roughed up Baltimore.

Schilling, 8-8 with a 3.97 ERA in 23 starts, last worked Sunday
against New York, allowing four runs and six hits in 7 2/3 innings
to fall to 0-3 in his past four starts.

Matsuzaka's last outing was Friday against New York, when he
allowed two runs and four hits in 5 2/3 innings. He is 14-12 with a
4.41 ERA in 30 games this season but just 1-4 in his past seven

"At some point, there was going to be a three-day extra rest
period," Francona said. "We elected to do it now, as opposed to
before a playoff game. It just didn't seem to make a ton of sense.
Rest is great, but if there's any rust you'd rather have it now."

Wakefield (16-11) took the loss against Toronto on Monday,
allowing four runs and seven hits in six innings. He is 0-1 in
three starts since missing a turn on Aug. 31 because of a sore
lower back.

Rookie Clay Buchholz will start against Toronto on Wednesday,
the right-hander's first start since throwing a no-hitter against
Baltimore on Sept. 1.

Johnny Vander Meer is the only pitcher in major league history
to throw no-hitters in consecutive starts, doing it for Cincinnati
in 1938.

Buchholz is 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in three games this season. He
threw the no-hitter in his second career start.

Boston is off Thursday before starting its final road series
Friday night in Tampa Bay. Right-hander Josh Beckett, working on
five days rest, will pitch Friday. The Red Sox are off again Monday
before finishing the season with six home games, two against
Oakland and four against Minnesota.

"We'll set up the rotation how we think serves us completely,
now and in the future," Francona said. "We're certainly aware of
what has transpired this year, what guys have gone through and what
we hope they will go through. We continue to make decisions based
on all the factors."

Most of all, Francona wants to avoid a repeat of 2005 when, with
their rotation uncertain, Boston was swept by the Chicago White Sox
in the first round of the playoffs.

"We went down to the last day not knowing, went into the
playoffs and got knocked around a little bit," Francona said.