NEW YORK -- Steven Wright's knuckleball danced away from the Yankees' bats for eight mystifying innings and David Ortiz launched a moonshot home run off rookie Luis Severino, leading the Red Sox to a 2-1 victory on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.
Wright picked up his fifth victory of the season as he struck out a career-high nine batters and outdueled Severino, who is rated the Yankees' top prospect by MLB.com. The Yankees threatened in the ninth before Koji Uehara got pinch-hitter Brian McCann to fly out to center field, stranding two men aboard for his 24th save.
Severino looked strong in his Major League debut, permitting a pair of runs (one earned) over five innings while striking out seven. Alejandro De Aza knocked in the first run with a second-inning double, following a Chase Headley throwing error, and Ortiz reached the bleachers with a long home run leading off the fourth inning.
Wright cooled off a Yankees lineup that had produced 90 runs in their previous 10 games. His only major blemish came on Carlos Beltran's seventh-inning homer as he limited the Yanks to a run on four hits, holding them hitless into the fifth.
"The knuckleball was really good," Mark Teixeira said. "It's about as good as you can throw a knuckleball. You won't see many of them, but it was really good tonight."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED The Wright stuff: Wright brought back memories of a vintage Tim Wakefield by turning in the best start of his career. The eight innings and nine strikeouts were both career highs. After the Yankees opened the eighth with a single, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a shot back toward the middle that went off of Wright's leg, and it caromed to shortstop Xander Bogaerts for what wound up as a 1-6-3 double play.
"Outstanding effort," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He had the feel for his knuckler tonight much earlier than he did six days ago. A deep start. He gets a key double play out of Jacoby in the eighth inning to snuff off what could have been a potential rally for them. He kept guys off stride, obviously with some variation to the speed to the knuckleball. He threw a number of them tonight with good violence to them and a lot of strikes with it." More >
The future is now: The hyped debut of Severino served as a tantalizing advertisement of what could be ahead. At 21 years and 166 days old, Severino is the youngest pitcher to make a Major League start this season. He dialed up his fastball as high as 97 mph while mixing in his changeup and slider, wrapping his outing after 94 pitches (59 strikes). General manager Brian Cashman has committed to keeping Severino in the rotation for the foreseeable future.
"I feel the same way I did in Triple-A. It's the same baseball," Severino said through an interpreter. "All I was trying to do was get people out." More >
Papi launches one off rookie: Ortiz might be 39 years old, but he can still get the bat around, even against an electric prospect like Severino. In the top of the fourth, Ortiz turned on a 96-mph fastball from Severino and hammered it deep into the seats in right. The homer was projected by Statcast™ to land 435 feet with an exit velocity of 109 mph and a launch angle of 28 degrees.
"You know, against a guy who's got a great arm. Severino has got electric-type stuff and he gets a 2-0 fastball that David is probably sitting on it obviously with the way he squared it up," said Farrell. "We don't leave New York without David probably going deep one time. Just put a beautiful swing on the pitch. There's no question we'll see Severino a lot in years to come, and that's a good looking young pitcher." More >
Rally comes up short: The Yankees threatened in the ninth inning against Uehara, as Teixeira singled on a video-reviewed play where right fielder Rusney Castillo trapped a diving catch. Headley worked a two-out walk and manager Joe Girardi sent up McCann in place of Didi Gregorius, reasoning that he'd take a chance because McCann had seen Uehara (1-for-4, homer) previously while Gregorius had not. McCann, who is hobbled somewhat by an inflamed MCL in his left knee, flew out to center field. More >
"That young kid, he's got good stuff, man. I think he's going to be pretty good. He has a good fastball. He's got that cutter, the changeup. I think at the beginning of the game, he was kind of missing location a little bit. Other than that, his stuff is very explosive. Very good." -- Ortiz, on Severino
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Severino is the first pitcher in American League history with two hits or fewer, no walks and at least seven strikeouts in his Major League debut. He's the sixth pitcher to do so since 1900; the most recent was former Yankees prospect Manny Banuelos, on July 2 for the Braves against the Nationals.
Ortiz has hit homers off 34 different Yankees pitchers, the most of anyone in history, according to Elias.
WHAT'S NEXT Red Sox: Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez pitches the finale of this three-game series in hopes of faring as well against the Yankees as he did on July 11. In that one, Rodriguez held New York to five hits and two runs over 6 1/3 innings and earned the win.
Yankees: Left-hander CC Sabathia (4-8, 5.54 ERA) will make his 21st start of the season on Thursday as the Yankees complete their three-game series with the Red Sox at 7:05 p.m. ET. Sabathia took a no-decision in his last start, allowing five runs in five innings to the Rangers on July 30 at Texas, and he has not earned a decision in six of his last eight starts.