"Tim was so successful early, and then he just lost it," Niekro says. "That's when it becomes very tough mentally to throw a pitch that everybody knows is coming. I've told him that he's got to keep learning, he's got to eat, sleep, walk and talk the knuckleball until it floats in his bloodstream like a spirit inside of him."
This season Martinez and Wakefield stand alongside Atlanta's Maddux and Tom Glavine as the best 1-2 pitching combinations in baseball. The Red Sox have won back-to-back games 12 times this season with Martinez overpowering hitters one day and Wakefield underpowering them the next. In the past Wakefield had tried to change speeds on the knuckleball, but now he concentrates on a consistent delivery. He is throwing strikes on 67% of his pitches, and consequently, he is giving up fewer walks. He also has allowed more than four runs in just two of his 21 starts this year but takes more satisfaction from the fact that he lasted at least six innings in 18 of those games and 5⅔ in two others. "I want to throw as many innings as possible because as long as I'm out there, I feel I'm giving the team a good chance to win," Wakefield says. "I'm gaining confidence every game, and the pitch is becoming less and less mysterious."
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