PAWTUCKET – The scouting report provided by Pawtucket Red Sox catcher Dan Butler revealed just how on knuckleball pitcher Steven Wright was on Tuesday night.
“It was all over the place and just so unpredictable,” said Butler after Pawtucket took Game One of the Governors’ Cup finals against Charlotte by a 7-2 count. “I couldn’t catch it and they (meaning the Knight batters) couldn’t hit it. I don’t know if (Wright) knew where it was going, but it was a pretty special pitch tonight.”
Save for the first inning in which Wright yielded a run on a sacrifice fly, the player the Red Sox acquired in the Lars Anderson deal with Cleveland was the picture of an effective butterfly artist. He wound up tossing seven innings of two-run ball along with six strikeouts and two walks.
“I was rushing in the first inning, probably the result of being too hyped up,” Wright noted. “Once I calmed down, I was able to keep the ball down in the zone and kind of went off of that.”
Added PawSox skipper Arnie Beyeler. “Steven did a great job. He minimized the damage in some innings, especially early on. When you see that the catcher’s having some trouble catching the knuckleball, you know it’s doing some things.”
Offensively it was a group effort for the PawSox as the locals bashed three home runs. Danny Valencia broke a 1-1 tie with a two-run home run in the third inning as part of a three RBI performance for the third baseman.
Pawtucket flexed its muscles again in the seventh with Tony Thomas and J.C. Linares going back-to-back to extend the home team’s lead to five runs. For good measure, outfield prospect Bryce Brentz contributed a double and a triple.
Alex Wilson and Josh Fields each tossed a scoreless inning as Pawtucket won for the 12th time in 15 games.
The night got off to an ominous start for the Knights, which like the PawSox won their opening-round series in four games. On the 11th pitch of his outing, Charlotte starter Charles Leesman elicited a groundball to first base off the bat of Linares. As Leesman broke toward the bag, he stumbled before colliding ever so slightly with Charlotte’s Seth Lorman.
Leesman remained on the ground for several minutes before requiring help in the form of two people aiding the pitcher to the trainer's room. One of the league’s top pitchers, the 25-year-old Leesman went 12-10 with a 2.47 ERA. Instead of dipping into his bullpen with two outs in the first inning, Knights manager Joel Skinner summoned Andre Rienzo, who was originally slated to go in Game Two.
Thrust into an emergency role, Rienzo provided the Knights with 5 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on four hits with seven strikeouts. Charlie Shirek will now draw the honors as Charlotte seeks to even the best-of-five series tonight before the scene shifts to Fort Mill, S.C. for Game Three.
On the flip side, the PawSox will look to former Knights pitcher Zach Stewart in their quest to take a 2-0 series lead.