World Series: With Knuckleballer Wright Waiting in Wings, Boston Red Sox Face Los Angeles Dodgers

The first game of the World Series will be played on October 23 at 8:09 PM EST—and the Red Sox are in it, opposing the Los Angeles Dodgers after having bested the Houston Astros four games to one. The clincher against the Astros was played last Thursday, and much credit goes to “unlikely hero David Price,” says sports writer Jeff Passan.

David Price picked the perfect time to book his first career playoff win as a starting pitcher. It sent the Boston Red Sox to the World Series.

Arguably the worst postseason starter in baseball history, Price shut out a flat Houston Astros team for six innings Thursday night en route to a 4-1 victory in a pennant-clinching Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. The Red Sox, who won a franchise-record 108 games during the regular season, will host the winner of the Los Angeles Dodgers–Milwaukee Brewers National League Championship Series in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday.

The 33-year-old Price, working on three days’ rest, kept the Astros off-balance with an inside-and-outside, up-and-down command of the strike zone. He struck out nine, walked none and allowed three hits, with 65 of his 93 pitches going for strikes. His changeup, in particular, was devastatingly effective, inducing 11 swings and misses, including four for strikeouts.

Meanwhile, knuckleball pitcher Steven Wright could be “an X-Factor in the World Series,” argues SBNation’s Jake Kostik. For one thing, “he’s actually quite good.” (Granted.) He also gives the Sox the ability to switch from a “102 mph Nathan Eovaldi fastball” to a “76 mph Steven Wright knuckleball,” a shift in pitching pattern effectively exploited during the regular season that the guys on the other side aren’t yet used to. (Also granted.)

Whether Wright will make it to the mound during the Series is still up in the air. His recent knee crunch seems to be relatively minor. According to an October 20 Boston Herald report, he and manager Alex Cora are being cautiously—very cautiously—optimistic.

“My arm and body feels really good, just a matter of can my knee withstand the pressure of throwing off a mound consistently,” [Wright] said.

Manager Alex Cora said the Sox need to see Wright “go through a few tests” before they make a roster decision.

Wright threw about 10 pitches off the mound on Saturday and will throw a live bullpen session against hitters Sunday at Fenway Park to see how his knee reacts.

“When I got taken off the roster, I was in a lot of pain,” he said. “Now it’s just uncomfortable. It’s at the point where it’s hard because the significance of what we’re dealing with, with the playoffs and the World Series, we just don’t know. We don’t know how it’s going to react.

“I have to make a humble self-evaluation because it comes down to, I do want to pitch, but if there’s any uncertainty it’s not worth it for the team to try to pitch through something and have it start acting up again.”

In any case, Wright expects to undergo one more knee surgery soon after the last pitch of the Series is thrown.

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Memories: Made the Cut has a YouTube video featuring knuckleballs lobbed by Niekro, Wakefield, Dickey, and Wright that struck the batter out.

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