BOSTON — Who would have thought the Boston Red Sox’s best game in a week would come against one of the best pitchers the American League has to offer?
Well, that’s exactly what happened Thursday night at Fenway Park, as Boston shelled Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale to win 8-2 and salvage the finale of what up to that point had been a thoroughly forgettable four-game series.
GAME IN A WORD
Had the Red Sox lost Thursday night, this series would have been arguably their worst of the season. Instead, they end it on a positive note to snap a three-game losing streak.
While Boston’s success against Sale certainly was a major contributing factor in the slump-busting victory, perhaps even more impressive was the work done by Red Sox starter Steven Wright, who struck out a career-high eight and allowed just two runs in seven innings. The knuckleballer’s seven innings pitched also represented a career high.
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
Boston touched Sale for three runs in the sixth inning after putting two on the board in the fifth. The Red Sox stroked six hits between those two innings and had two batters reach on hit-by-pitches and another via intentional walk.
ON THE BUMP
— Wright came within two strikes of doing what no Red Sox pitcher did in this series: pitch a scoreless first inning.
After allowing a leadoff single to Adam Eaton, the knuckleballer struck out the next two men he faced. But after swinging at the first pitch and taking the second for a ball, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu crushed Wright’s 1-1 offering into the Red Sox’s bullpen for a two-run home run.
Abreu’s last homer, on which Mookie Betts suffered a concussion Tuesday night, landed in almost the exact same spot.
The first was Wright’s only real problem inning, however. He pitched a perfect second, worked around a two-out single and walk in the third, and faced minimal resistance in the fourth, fifth and sixth.
After putting away the White Sox in the seventh, Wright took a seat. He threw 116 pitches, allowed six hits and walked two.
— Robbie Ross Jr. retired the side in order in the eighth, striking out two.
— Junichi Tazawa allowed a leadoff double in the ninth but nothing more to shut the door.
IN THE BATTER’S BOX
— The Red Sox quickly got on the board against Sale. Xander Bogaerts reached on a one-out single in the first, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and easily scored on a double by David Ortiz.
— Blake Swihart singled with two outs in the second but was gunned down by a good 10 feet trying to stretch it to a double. Not the best baserunning decision by the rookie catcher.
Bogaerts found himself in the same situation one inning later, though his out on the bases was more the result of a strong throw by right fielder J.B. Shuck than an error in judgement on his part.
— For the second straight game, Pablo Sandoval did not make it through all nine innings. He took a Sale fastball off the forearm in the bottom of the fourth and immediately was removed from the game. Adding insult to injury, Sandoval swung at the pitch, striking out swinging, ending the inning and stranding runners on the corners.
Josh Rutledge again took over at third base.
— The Red Sox took their first lead since Monday in the fifth. Jackie Bradley Jr. reached on a one-out hit-by-pitch to get things started, Brock Holt grounded into a fielder’s choice, and Bogaerts, Hanley Ramirez and Ortiz followed with back-to-back singles. That plated two runs, putting Boston ahead 3-2.
It marked just the third time in 20 starts this season Sale had allowed three or more runs.
— That trend of chipping away continued in the sixth.
Rusney Castillo, Blake Swihart, Bradley and Holt all singled before an out was recorded, and Rutledge reached on Sale’s second hit-by-pitch in as many innings. Bradley’s and Holt’s base hits both drove in runs, and Holt’s chased Sale from the game.
Former Red Sox right-hander Matt Albers entered as Chicago’s first reliever, and Bogaerts lofted his first pitch to right field for a sacrifice fly, scoring Swihart from third and giving Boston a 7-2 lead.
— Castillo led off the seventh with a homer to dead center — just his second of the season.
— Bogaerts and Ortiz each finished with three hits in the game.
TWEET OF THE GAME
Sale: 5+ IP; 12 H; 7 ER; 1 BB; 7 K. Leader in the "pitching-line-no-one-saw-coming contest.—
Sean McAdam (@Sean_McAdam) July 31, 2015
The Tampa Bay Rays come to town Friday to begin a three-game series. Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez will oppose right-hander Erasmo Ramirez in the opener.
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images