BOSTON — Steven Wright’s weakness this season has been water, but he’s trying his best to overcome the element.
The Red Sox gifted the knuckleballer a 5-0 lead against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday as Wright dealt his way through five scoreless innings, but a heavy, steady rain started to come down in the bottom of the fifth frame. Wright’s worst outings this season have come during wet weather — it was Texas humidity in his last start on June 25 against the Rangers — and that was no different Friday even though Wright still picked up the 5-4 win.
Wright began the sixth with a double to Angels designated hitter Albert Pujols, hit Jefry Marte and walked Daniel Nava before giving C.J. Cron a 3-2 fastball to bury into the Green Monster seats for a grand slam. And Wright regrets giving up on his knuckleball, especially because pitching coach Carl Willis told him to stick with it.
“It’s one of those things that I felt like a pretty good fastball today,” Wright said. “I’ve been throwing it a lot the last couple outings because I’ve been struggling with the knuckleball, and that’s kind of one of the things that — I didn’t want to walk him and my instincts don’t want to walk a guy.
“But I’ve got to think about it as a bigger perspective and the bigger picture and just say swallow the walk and just — because what if I make a good pitch? That’s the thing, if I throw a knuckleball, maybe it’s a 6-4-3 double play versus a home run on a fastball. It’s one of those things I’m going to be kicking myself for the next four days on that one pitch.”
And Red Sox manager John Farrell said as much, too. Had Wright risked giving up a walk, reliever Matt Barnes was ready to go either way.
“At worst case scenario, I think if he throws his knuckleball and misses with a pitch to walk in a run, Barnes is in the game with that next hitter regardless, so 3-2 fastball ends up costing him four runs,” Farrell said. “That was the difference there.”
Here are some more notes from Friday’s win.
— The Red Sox lucked out big time in the ninth inning after Craig Kimbrel headed for trouble. Kimbrel started his outing by walking Mike Trout and earned two pretty quick outs after that. But once it was Daniel Nava’s turn to bat, he sent a ball to deep right field and would’ve scored Trout easily.
However, it bounced off the fence and into a fan’s hand for a ground-rule double. The fan made a good play on the ball, though, and the Angels wanted it reviewed for fan interference. The call went Boston’s way, call, and Farrell admitted it was a lucky one.
“Well, we didn’t get a clear explanation, but obviously fan interference came into play,” Farrell said. “Whether or not they challenged if that ball was going to stay in fair territory or not, you might say we caught a break right there.”
Right fielder Mookie Betts certainly wasn’t complaining about the call, either.
“We were joking we’re going to have to take (the fan) out to dinner because I think that ball was going to come back in play, obviously Trout was going to score on that ball,” Betts said. “Would be another tough situation here, but fortunately he has pretty good hand-eye coordination.”
— David Ortiz hit another milestone home run Friday. The DH’s fifth-inning solo shot was No. 522 in his career, which moved him past Ted Williams, Willie McCovey and Frank Thomas for 19th on the all-time list.
— Koji Uehara made a nifty little play in the eighth inning after some miscommunication in the outfield between Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brock Holt helped Angels second baseman Johnny Giavotella triple. Catcher Carlos Perez attempted a safety squeeze in the next at-bat, but Uehara was ready for it and scooped the ball up to nab Giavotella at home.
“Key play. That takes you back to spring training,” Farrell said. “That’s something you do repetitively for 45-plus days, and it showed up to be a pivotal play.”
— Wright’s four earned runs Friday were just the third time in the knuckleballer’s 27 career starts that he allowed more than three runs.
— Brock Holt had a great day back from the disabled list, going 2-for-4 with two doubles, two runs and an RBI. He also made a great play in left field in the top of the fourth inning.
The Red Sox are 23-9 when Holt starts.
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images
May 13, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Steven Wright (35) pitches against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
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