NEW YORK — Both are rookies and throw the baseball with their right hands. The similarities abruptly ended there for Steven Wright and Luis Severino on Wednesday night.
Wright is a 30-year-old southern Californian who has been playing professionally for nine years. A downward career path changed direction in 2011 when he committed to throwing a knuckleball. The Red Sox, intrigued, traded for Wright a year later and have tried to find ways to take advantage of his uniqueness since.
Severino is a 21-year-old from the Dominican Republic with an electric fastball and the greatest of expectations. He soared through the minor leagues, piling up strikeouts and prodding the Yankees to bring him up ahead of schedule. Wednesday was his debut.
Wright won the contrast of styles, pitching the best game of his career as the Red Sox beat the Yankees, 2-1, before a sellout crowd of 47,489.
A mammoth home run by David Ortiz was the difference, but even he conceded this game belonged to Wright. Over eight innings, Wright allowed one run on four hits, struck out nine, and walked two. Of his 108 pitches, 72 were strikes.
“Given this lineup, in this ballpark . . . he was outstanding,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “That was as good as Steven has thrown for us.”
Wright was not inclined to disagree.
“Today, start to finish, that was the best I’ve felt in a while,” he said.
The eight innings and nine strikeouts were career highs for Wright. The knuckleball produced 15 swings and misses, the ball diving across the plate with what Farrell termed “violent” movement.
“When you see the late, hard action he’s able to create, even with the type of action he had, he was in the strike zone with it,” the manager said. “That’s a difficult combination to hit against.”
Wright mixed in 11 fastballs and five curveballs, keeping the Yankees out of kilter. New York had scored 40 runs in its previous four games.
Wright carried a no-hit bid into the fifth inning before Didi Gregorius singled up the middle with one out. John Ryan Murphy singled with two outs but Jacoby Ellsbury struck out on four pitches, swinging wildly at three knuckleballs.
The Yankees, down 2-0, did not score until the seventh inning, when Carlos Beltran led off with a home run to right field. Wright’s first pitch was high, the second was low, but the third was just right.
Wright allowed a leadoff single by Murphy in the eighth inning then caught a break. Ellsbury hit a ball hard up the middle but it struck Wright’s left foot and deflected to shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
Bogaerts stepped on second base and fired to first for a double play.
“We’re fortunate to get a deflection. You’re not going to double up Jacoby many times,” Farrell said. “We caught a break in that spot.”
Said Wright: “You like that? That’s something that we work on and today we were able to execute.”
As the last-place Red Sox evaluate their roster over the final two months, Wright (5-4) will continue to get opportunities. Wright is old for a prospect but still young for a knuckleballer. Tim Wakefield, who has helped tutor Wright, won 151 games after turning 30.
Wright has allowed three runs over 15 innings in his last two starts and struck out 17.
“I’ll do whatever they want me to do,” Wright said. “Just give me a chance to pitch. That’s all I want.”
Koji Uehara, in a rare save situation, allowed a one-out single in the ninth inning by Mark Teixeira. Pinch runner Chris Young advanced to second on a wild pitch.
Beltran lined to right field before Uehara uncharacteristically walked Chase Headley. Pinch hitter Brian McCann, a dangerous hitter, flew out to center field and Uehara had his 24th save.
It was only the fourth win for the Red Sox in 11 games against the Yankees this season and the first road victory for the Sox since July 2.
In his major-league debut, Severino was impressive. He allowed two runs on two hits over five innings and struck out seven without a walk.
Severino’s fastball touched 97 miles per hour and he threw a hard slider along with a cut fastball. The Red Sox did not make much hard contact against him, but the good swings they took paid off.
Mike Napoli reached second on a throwing error by Headley with two outs in the second inning. Alejandro De Aza followed with an RBI double to the gap in right field.
In the fourth inning, Severino fell behind Ortiz 2 and 0 and left a fastball over the plate. Ortiz destroyed it, sending the ball deep into the bleachers in right field, 435 feet away.
Ortiz, who has 17 RBIs in his last 15 games, chuckled when asked if it was as well as he has hit a ball this season.
“You think?” he said.
It was the 21st home run of the season for Ortiz, No. 487 for his career. Of the 46 home runs Ortiz has hit against the Yankees in his career, 28 have come in the Bronx.
“We don’t leave New York without David probably going deep one time,” Farrell said.