Steven Wright

Closing Time: Red Sox figure things out against Chris Sale, White Sox

Rob Bradford
July 30, 2015 - 6:41 pm

This one came out of nowhere. Having won just three of their last 16 games, while sitting on the verge of a four-game sweep at the hands of the red-hot White Sox, the Red Sox didn't have much reason for optimism heading into Thursday night's series finale. Add in that John Farrell's team had to reverse its course against Chris Sale, one of the top pitchers in the American League, and the Sox' best chance would seem for the rain to pick up steam from 7 p.m. and on. But the rain did let up, resulting in just a 51-minute delay, and as it turned out the Red Sox were glad it did. The Sox jumped all over Sale, handing the skinny southpaw with the 2.85 ERA one of his worst results of the season. The Red Sox tagged the White Sox starter for seven runs on 12 hits over five innings on the way to an 8-2 win at Fenway Park. It marked the most hits ever allowed by Sale, who was chased from the game after not retiring an out in the sixth inning and being charged with four runs in the frame. Sale's counterpart, Red Sox starter Steven Wright, conversely turned in one of his best big league outings, giving up just two runs (both coming in the first inning) over seven innings. The knuckleballer finished with career-highs in innings pitched, strikeouts (8), and pitches thrown (115). "It was just one of those days," Wright said. "My last outing, it was definitely moving a lot more radically. It felt good coming out of my hand last night, and it felt the same coming out this time. Today it wasn't moving quite as much. That's just the way it goes sometimes with the knuckleballs." Another positive in Wright's performance was his cohesion with catcher Blake Swihart after the backstop's four passed-ball game the last time they got together. "I think the other day his previous time out, he reached for a number of knuckleballs that were up above the eye level," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "There was a concerted effort on his part to raise his entire body up to maybe keep his eye level above the glove. But he handled him much more clean today. There was an adjustment he made in working with [catching instructor] Dana [LeVangie] in between starts." Much of the damage done against Sale was surprisingly from some of the Red Sox' lefty bats, including David Ortiz, who finished with three hits. Coming into the game, Ortiz was just 2-for-10 against the lefty, and hitting .162 vs. southpaws for the season. Another encouraging performance against Sale came from Jackie Bradley Jr., who rifled an RBI single up the middle in the sixth against the Chicago starter. Other offensive performances of note for the Red Sox were Xander Bogaerts' three-hit night (raising his batting average to .316), and Rusney Castillo's homer into the center field seats. "He'€™s handled the ball in better than he did the previous time with us," said Farrell regarding Castillo. "The sinkerballer that throws the ball down and in to him, tied him up. I think as he'€™s gotten more at-bats he looks more fluid and relaxed and not trying to force the issue at the plate. The bat speed is very good. But I think the most impressive thing is that he'€™s handled the ball close to him better than he did previous." "It's something I definitely focused in on recently," said Castillo of hitting the inside pitch. "Something I became aware of and starting to make adjustments to it. Thankfully it's starting to pay dividends." For a box score, click here.