Combination of knuckleball, fastball leaves White Sox guessing
By Quinn Roberts
BOSTON -- Entering Thursday night's game at Fenway Park, it was easy to see the disparity in pitching styles between White Sox ace Chris Sale and Red Sox starter Steven Wright. Sale fires 95-mph missiles, while Wright lobs knuckleballs in the mid-70s.
However, it was the steadiness of Wright that came out on top and helped Boston to an 8-2 win over Chicago to avoid a four-game series sweep. The knuckleballer tossed a career-high seven innings, allowing two runs on six hits for the win. He also struck out a career-high eight, one more than Sale.
"I know he is going to come out and bring his 'A' game. He always does. He is who he is for a reason," Wright said of Sale. "For me, I knew they were going to come out swinging from what they have done lately. All I could do was throw quality strikes."
After Red Sox starters allowed 18 runs in 11 innings through the first three games, Wright was a breath of fresh air.
"He didn't have a real good feel for it in the first couple innings, but then he was able to get a feel for it. The consistency and violence to the action and strike-throwing ability improved across the board," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We saw for three nights what they did and started things off the same way. He settled in and pitched a very solid outing for us."
Wright made an in-game adjustment after allowing a two-run home run to Jose Abreu in the first inning. He relied more on his fastball after having trouble filling the zone with knuckleballs.
"That's the key for me, getting ahead of hitters. Today, we stayed ahead," Wright said. "We mixed it in and used it as a factor instead of having to go to it."
Wright had trouble with that very thing in his two previous starts, both losses, combining to allow 10 runs in 9 1/3 innings.
Thursday's quality start marked a turning point for Wright and helped save a Red Sox bullpen in desperate need of help after tossing 16 innings in the last three games.
"We were able to stay away from a number of guys and not even call down to get people up. Even when we scored runs, he went out and put zeros up, shutdown innings," Farrell said. "For one time through this turn of starters, we get a guy to go deep in a ballgame, a huge lift for the entire staff."
Even with a steady rain coming down at Fenway the entire night, Wright did his best to keep a good grip on the ball and have the right rhythm and timing.
"With the knuckleball, it is one of those things where you just have to pound the zone. If you go out there and think about it, you are putting yourself in a hole before you throw one pitch," Wright said. "I watched the last few games. You have to tip your hat. They've hit mistakes. It was all about throwing quality knuckleballs."
Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.