The Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees used starting pitchers who were never part of the original plan for their rotations to start the year. However, both of them looked to be pieces that could help their respective teams succeed. While the Yankees need assistance to fend off the Toronto Blue Jays, who put even more fuel into their high-octane offence, the Red Sox need an arm that’s not going to fall off, like so many have for them, this season. What better way to ensure that than to start a knuckleball pitcher like Steven Wright?
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In front of over 47 000 people in Yankee Stadium, Wright matched up against 21-year-old righty Luis Severino, a fastball pitcher who throws more with his upper body than anything else. Severino’s delivery incidentally disguises his pitches, as his mechanics do not give away anything about his pitches. If someone would teach the native from the Dominican Republic how to use his legs in his pitching motion, Severino could be throwing even faster and be a big asset for the Yankees, something that the Red Sox should consider for the future.
As the game started, you could tell that it wasn’t going to be just another night of baseball. It never is when a knuckler is on the mound. Top prospect Blake Swihart has been earning his bones behind the plate for the Red Sox in a baptism-by-fire, having to catch a starting rotation that has been all over the place in terms of locations, speeds, and mental stability. Last night, he had trouble figuring out the knuckleball almost as much as the Yankees did. He allowed a passed ball in the first inning, which Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner took advantage of by moving to second base with othe ne out. Fortunately for the Red Sox, Wright’s knuckleball was just as baffling to Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, striking both men out to end the frame.
What was more baffling was to see Yankees third baseman Chase Headley, normally sure-handed make a fielding error to allow Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli to reach second base on a terrible throw, with two outs in the top of the second inning. The next batter was Alejandro De Aza who jumped on a pitch for a double and scored Napoli, drawing first blood.
The Red Sox added to the lead by their face of the franchise David Ortiz doing what he does best. ESPN‘s coverage showed Big Papi in the warmups before the game, saying that he saves his big shots for their broadcasts. Well, he certainly had one for them in the top of the fourth inning. On a 2-0 count, Severino had to find a strike, and he did right into Ortiz’s wheel house. He cranked it for his 21st home run of the 2015 campaign, welcoming the kid to the majors in his debut to the oldest and most passionate rivalry in baseball.
Carlos Beltran answered for his young starter, in the bottom of the seventh inning, by smacking his own lead-off home run, his eighth of the season, over the right-field fence. The shot cut the Red Sox lead to 2-1.
That would be all for the scoring in this game, however. After some lucky bounces in the bottom of the ninth, Koji Uehara was able to get out of the inning unscathed for the save, his 24th of the year. Wright took the victory and Severino took the loss, but both starters looked impressive and should be able to help their clubs replace some ailing veteran arms if they stay consistent.
- The Red Sox went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and left six men on base. The Yankees went 0-for-5 and also left six men on base.
- Brock Holt, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Swihart went without a hit. Bogaerts and Swihart had the two most embarrassing moments of the lot. Bogart popped out to the backstop while trying to lay down a bunt, becoming the third out. Swihart fell for the Yankees’ ploy of the catcher starting by setting up inside only to jump outside, having Swihart miscalculate and watch the ball smoke past him for the third strike and the third out of the inning with the bases loaded.
- Even though Napoli was hit by a pitch, and went 0-for-2 with a strikeout, he stayed in the game while De Aza, who had the only other RBI besides Ortiz, was replaced by Rusney Castillo to pinch-hit late in the game. The move made the ESPN commentators comment, criticizing the substitution by Red Sox manager John Farrell and the overall strategy of using the younger players by Larry Lucchino, stating how the new CEO will be making changes very soon.
Other than the home run by Beltran, Wright pitched a gem. He allowed one run on four hits, two walks, and nine strikeouts in 8.0 innings. His knuckleball was dancing like the music wouldn’t end on a slow melody; it was a fast-paced, footloose kind of night. Wright threw 108 pitches, 72 for strikes, that forced six ground outs and four fly outs, which kept him in the game until he could pass the ball to the closer. No bullpen implosions like the night before.
Well, there could have been a slight implosion if some bounces went in favor of the Yankees in the ninth. Especially when the throw to catch a Yankee runner at second bounced off of Bogaerts right to Holt, which kept the runner from advancing further. And with Koji’s splitter hitting the dirt, repeatedly, before even crossing the plate, it was all that Swihart could do to block the pitches so that the Yankees wouldn’t tie the game. Fortunately for Uehara, all that appears for his numbers are a hit and a walk with no runs scored to earn the save.
It was two runs. Almost nobody got a hit. They were up against a young rookie and were mesmerized by his lack of leg motion. The team expected to be one of the most powerful offences in the majors stumbled against a righty who hadn’t seen one game of big-league experience, with the rivalry and the home crowd as pressure surrounding him. One of the two men to actually get a hit and scored a run was replaced, while the rest stayed in the game to try to hit and failed. Why are the youngsters here with Boston if they are not going to get regular playing time? How are they going to succeed if they don’t get the experience that they need to figure out major league pitchers? Ortiz salvaged a lacklustre night by the Red Sox bats, but they can’t keep relying on the veterans to hit the long ball. It’s time for the Beantown Babes to take their rightful place in the starting lineup to see what they can do for now and the future. The Red Sox will continue to be the worst team in the American League if things continue for them offensively.