CHICAGO (AP)—Jaret Wright has found new life and his old fastball in Atlanta.
Wright (5-5) pitched two-hit ball for seven scoreless innings to win his third straight decision in the Braves’ 6-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Friday night.
Mixing a mid-90s fastball with a sharp curve, the right-hander struck out a season-high eight batters. He fanned six of nine at one point and set down 14 of 15 batters before leaving the game.
“It’s definitely been a long time since I consistently felt good. I know I have a chance to go out there and keep the game close and put up some zeros,” Wright said. “It’s nice to be playing well again.”
It’s been a long time since Wright could say that.
He was a rookie sensation with Cleveland in 1997. Only 21, he went 8-3 during the regular season, started Game 7 of the World Series and appeared headed for a bright future when injuries and two shoulder operations left his career in doubt.
Wright began to put things back together last year. After being placed on waivers by San Diego, he signed with the Braves and pitched out of the bullpen—throwing four scoreless innings in the NL division series against the Chicago Cubs.
He moved into the rotation this season and at times has been dominant. Wright took a shutout into the eighth inning two weeks ago against Philadelphia, and has lowered his ERA to 3.54.
“He was outstanding. He was changing speeds and his fastball was in the 90s,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “I saw him last year and he wasn’t throwing the ball that good.”
Wright walked two and was pulled after 104 pitches.
That’s when John Smoltz made things interesting.
With the potential tying run at the plate, Smoltz struck out pinch-hitter Timo Perez to end the game.
“I haven’t given up a run all year on the road and I haven’t walked (anyone), and it was just one of those days where I got it all out of my system,” Smoltz said.
Lee’s double extended his hitting streak to a career-high 25 games, tied with Houston’s Jeff Kent for the longest in the majors this season. Both streaks are still active.
Chris Reitsma worked a hitless eighth before giving way to Smoltz.
The Braves took a 2-0 lead in the second against Scott Schoeneweis (5-4) on RBI singles by Andruw Jones and Mark DeRosa. Jones drove in Julio Franco from second, then scored on DeRosa’s sharp single to right.
Franco added an RBI single in the seventh.
The win moved the Braves back to .500. Atlanta was below .500 through 60 games for the first time since 1990.
Wright made certain their stay was brief.
He gave up a leadoff walk to Joe Crede and a single to Sandy Alomar Jr. in the third but managed to escape the inning without any damage. Wright struck out Willie Harris with a tailing fastball, got Juan Uribe to fly out and struck out Frank Thomas swinging.
“That was a long inning,” Wright said. “I walked the leadoff guy, and getting out of that I thought was pretty big.”
Wright breezed through the next four innings, retiring the side in order in the fourth and fifth. After a leadoff walk to Harris in the sixth, Wright got Uribe to hit into a double play and got Thomas on a grounder to second.
Chicago’s frustration at the plate showed in the fifth, when Alomar flung his bat to the backstop after striking out to end the inning. The White Sox, the top-hitting team in the American League, scored 24 runs in their previous two games.
It was the fourth consecutive win for the Braves over the White Sox. Atlanta swept a three-game series last year.
Chicago has dropped six of eight.
Schoeneweis went six innings and gave up five runs on eight hits and twowalks. He struck out six.
RHP John Thomson will start Saturday for the Braves in place of Travis Smith. Thomson threw just one inning on Wednesday. … Atlanta OF Chipper Jones, limited by tightness in his right hamstring, was the designated hitter again. … The White Sox have hit 12 homers in their last three games. The franchise record for a three-game stretch is 13. … Wright is 4-2 in nightgames this season and 1-3 in day games.