In a battle of two first place teams (the White Sox lead the Central by three games) Steven Wright and his 1.37 ERA started for the Red Sox and Jose Quintana and his 1.47 ERA toed the rubber for the White Sox. This game lived up to the expectation of a traditional pitchers duel.
In the bottom of the first, the White Sox drew first blood. With a man on first, Jose Abreu hit a rocket off the right centerfield fence that took an odd carom off the fence which eluded Red Sox centerfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. to get the run home. Abreu pulled in at third with a triple. Wright left Abreu right there as he managed to strike out new White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier and retire Melky Cabrera on a flyout to escape further trouble.
The Red Sox went down in order in the first two innings but made Quintana work for it, working him for 30 pitches. Mookie Betts started the game with a nine pitch at-bat. In the second inning, Hanley Ramirez worked an 11 pitch plate appearance but neither was able to reach safely. David Ortiz had a deep drive to center field corralled by a leaping Austin Jackson at the center field wall. Adam Eaton robbed Bradley, Jr. to end the third inning, lunging to spear a smoked liner to right field. The Red Sox were making good contact but the White Sox were making the plays.
Wright worked himself into trouble in the third walking Eaton and Jackson to start the inning, who moved up to second and third on an infield dribbler. After three balls fell outside the strike zone, they intentionally walked Abreu to load the bases, a curious move considering he had already walked two in the inning. A slow grounder by Frazier to third base brought Jackson home from third to extend the lead to 2-0. Wright wriggled out of the jam without further damage by striking out Cabrera to end the frame with a dancing knuckler.
In the top of the fourth, Hanley broke his long homer (April 6 was his last one) drought by lacing one over the right field wall, to cut the deficit to 2-1. It was the first homer Quintana had surrendered this season. When Xander Bogaerts led off the seventh with a single it was their first leadoff hitter in an inning to reach base. He could advance no further as the best Boston could do was get Quintana to throw 24 pitches in the inning but was still only at 93 after seven innings.
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In the bottom of the eighth, the White Sox used their speed and patience to add two runs to their lead. Eaton led off the inning with a bunt single off Junichi Tazawa. With Eaton running on a 3-2 pitch, Tazawa bounced his pitch past catcher Ryan Hanigan to allow Eaton to speed all the way to third narrowly beating Hanigan’s throw, a call that was upheld on review. After electing not to walk Abreu, the Cuban slugger laced a double to the left field corner to push the score to 4-1. Tazawa and Matt Barnes managed to escape further damage, Barnes retiring the last two batters to save Tazawa’s ERA which rose above 0 for the first time this season.
David Robertson retired the Red Sox on two groundouts and a questionable call on a check swing by Bogaerts that was called a full swing by the home plate umpire.
- Wright is now 2-3 with a 1.67 ERA. David Price is 4-0 with a 6.14 ERA. Wins are not a meaningful statistic for pitchers, it’s just bookkeeping.
- Red Sox caught a break in the eighth when the umpires allowed John Farrell to get an umpire’s challenge after he had exhausted his on the Eaton play which he had no chance of winning. Farrell correctly won the second challenge but it made no difference in the outcome of the game.
- Tonight was Ramirez’ first homer since April 6, the last time this writer did a game recap. More recaps in May will hopefully result in more Hanley homers.
- The radar gun had Barnes velocity at 98 tonight, higher than normal.
The only negative thing you can say about Wright’s start is that he walked four batters. This drove up his pitch count to 104 which limited to six innings. With a knuckleball dancing about, the walks are not a surprising thing. The results for Wright are also not surprising in that he allowed just three hits while allowing two runs, striking out six. In Wright’s 16 career starts, he has allowed more than three runs exactly one time. He just didn’t get the run support tonight.
Though Carson Smith pitched a clean inning, striking out a batter, in his first appearance of the year, the award goes to Barnes for his escape from the bases loaded jam in the bottom of the eighth. After walking his first batter on a questionable set of calls, Barnes came back to record a strikeout and flyout after long at-bats to at least give the Red Sox a chance in the top of the ninth. The fact that they did nothing against White Sox closer Robertson doesn’t change the fact that Barnes got the job done in a pinch after Tazawa had a poor evening.
If they had not scored via the Hanley home run, a case could be made that an F grade could be given. Hanley gets the award for the homer and two other hard hit balls on the night, but there weren’t many of them They did nothing off Quintana, who pitched a gem, allowing just four hits and no walks to the Red Sox in addition to that single run. The Red Sox did not have an at-bat with a runner in scoring position for the night. They were only able to send up three batters over the minimum.