BOSTON — Steven Wright went from mop-up reliever to unsung hero Thursday.
Wright, who entered with the Red Sox trailing 7-1, pitched three scoreless innings, and, in the process, gave Boston a chance to eventually walk off with a dramatic, 8-7 victory.
“I think it just proves that you can never take an inning off,” Wright said. “I mean you come in and I’m down 7-1, you’re thinking it’s a mop-up role, you’re just kind of going through the motions, but it just shows you that you can never take one pitch off because you never know what’s going to happen until the 27th out is made.”
The Mariners found the 27th out — and 26th, for that matter — to be elusive Thursday. The Red Sox entered the ninth inning facing a seemingly insurmountable deficit, but they rallied for six runs against Seattle’s bullpen to enjoy their major league-leading 11th walk-off win of the season.
Much of the credit, obviously, goes to the Red Sox’ offense, as Boston’s bats maintained a patient approach, grinded out at-bats and eventually posted enough runs to earn a victory. But without Wright’s effort, which at one point seemed fruitless, the Red Sox would have found their comeback much more difficult to complete. And that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
“Maybe [it’ll be forgotten] when it comes to what’s written and stuff, but not in this clubhouse,” said Daniel Nava, who provided the game-winning hit. “We’re well aware of what he did and it’s not easy to come into a situation when the game’s kind of out of whack [and] just hang in there and put up a few big zeros. We don’t forget about it. Hopefully, no one else does.”
Wright was recalled just hours before Thursday’s game, replacing fellow reliever Jose De La Torre on the Red Sox’ active roster. Thursday’s three-inning performance marked just his third major league appearance, with his last also coming against the Mariners on July 11. He tossed five shutout innings in that contest, which, coincidentally, also involved a Nava game-winning hit.
“Once again he matches up well,” manager John Farrell said. “He had a very good extended relief appearance out in Seattle. The last two major league appearances have been against this team, and whether it’s just the slower stuff – typically you get a younger team that’s aggressive that are good fastball hitters, he can slow them down with the unpredictability of the knuckleball, and we made some good defensive plays, particularly in left field, behind him. But it’s the contrast of style more than anything that slows them down.”
Wright now has 9 2/3 consecutive major league innings without allowing a run. It’s likely that he’ll eventually be sent back to Pawtucket when Brandon Workman is ready to rejoin the big club, but with another solid relief effort Thursday, the knuckleballer is doing everything he can to keep his name in the conversation.
Without the Red Sox’ rally, Wright’s effort probably would have flown under the radar. It still might, but it shouldn’t.