After seeing the first three games of their series against the White Sox derailed by terrible pitching performances, the Red Sox came out Thursday night to the same story. Steven Wright allowed two runs in the first inning, and from there it was...
Wait, what? They won?
Yes, apparently the fourth time is the charm. Where Joe Kelly, Wade Miley, and Rick Porcello had allowed themselves to come completely unhinged, Steven Wright tightened up and made something of his night, while Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz led an 8-run charge to finally give the Red Sox another respectable night to add to a list that has seen too few entries in these first two weeks of the second half.
Honestly, nothing is more shocking about this performance than Wright's night. Not that he had a good one, mind. While knuckleballers are not the most reliable sort, all but the worst have the potential for big nights in them, and actually tend to have the worst and the best even out in the long run. Sometimes the knuckleball is just unhittable, and sometimes it's batting practice.
What made this surprising is that Wright's night turned out so positive after Jose Abreu took him deep for two runs in the first. In fairness, Wright had gotten his first two outs of the inning from strikeouts, and Abreu is one hell of a hitter. But starting the night off in a way so reminiscent of those first three disasters was hardly a good omen.
But dance the knuckler did from there, and the White Sox were largely hopeless to track it. The most they managed off of Wright after Abreu's bomb was scattered base hits. Wright picked up eight strikeouts, including three of Tyler Saladino as he pitched through the seventh inning without allowing another run.
And from the offense, it was a big night from two of the names you'd expect, and one you'd desperately hope. Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz were the chief architects, getting the Sox back within a run in the bottom of the first with a single and a double, Ortiz falling behind 0-2 before laying off a number of outside pitches and clearing out a 98 MPH fastball when Sale finally tried to come in again for the RBI double.
The duo struck again in the fifth, this time with some help from Hanley Ramirez. With Brock Holt on base via a Fielder's Choice (Jackie Bradley Jr. having been hit by Sale to start the rally), Bogaerts, Ramirez, and Ortiz produced a series of singles to first tie the game, then put the Sox on top. They weren't exactly crushing the ball, but well-placed hits were good enough to make it 3-2.
Chris Sale's luck did not improve any in the sixth. The Red Sox put three men on without getting a ball out of the infield--one courtesy of another hit batsman, granted--leaving a more solid single from Jackie Bradley Jr. in front of Adam Eaton good for a run, and another hit from Brock Holt good for a second to knock Sale out of the game with six total to his name. Xander Bogaerts tacked on a sacrifice fly before all was said and done to make it 7-2, Red Sox.
All that remained? One big blast to dead center from Rusney Castillo, who really, really needed to get a ball in the air with authority. That'll do, Rusney. Assuming you do more of it, at least.
I won't claim any of this makes sense. Yes, there were certainly 2015 moments--Sandoval leaving the game after getting hit by a pitch he struck out on seems liek a prime example--but still, with this matchup, playing the way they have, this was not a game the Red Sox should have won. Call it the reverse lock phenomenon. There's no way Chris Sale should be leaving Fenway with one of the worst nights of his career. But Xander and Ortiz did him in, and that's one gift horse we shouldn't be looking in the mouth right now.