Steven Wright has gotten a chance to make a few starts for the Boston Red Sox this season, and with each outing, it seems he’s closer to turning those “chances” into his job.
The knuckleballer has made two starts this season after beginning the campaign in the bullpen upon his return from the disabled list and suspension. His dominance in relief has translated to starts, as evidenced most recently by his 6 2/3 scoreless innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Monday.
In the 2-0 extra-innings win, Wright walked three and hit one batter while allowing four hits and striking out five.
“Steven Wright’s been great ever since he’s come back,” Sox utility man Brock Holt told Guerin Austin after the game, as seen on NESN’s Red Sox postgame coverage. “Out of the bullpen he was lights out, and then these past two starts have been pretty unreal.
“That knuckleball dances around,” Holt continued. “It’s funny when you’re playing defense behind him and guys get on, they let you know how much it moves. It’s a difficult pitch to hit and he’s been able to throw strikes with it and he’s done a good job.”
For the moment, Wright has become a regular part of the rotation with Drew Pomeranz on the disabled list. But Pomeranz has had his struggles with wild inconsistency this season when he has been healthy, and there’s no guarantee that the time on the DL will help to add some stability.
Even if it does, the way Wright is fooling one hitter after another, using his pitches efficiently and going deep into games is something every rotation needs. So whenever Pomeranz does come back, it’s fair to say Wright has made a compelling case to become a mainstay in the rotation.
Here are some other notes from Red Sox-Orioles:
— Mookie Betts made his return to the lineup Monday after being activated from the disabled list just hours before first pitch. The right fielder had missed the previous 14 games with a left abdominal strain but hit leadoff until being replaced in the bottom half of the 11th.
Following the game, manager Alex Cora relayed a positive report from Betts.
“It’s fun to have him in the lineup, he changes the game, he does,” Cora said, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “But we felt that was enough for today after the layoff. So we’ll see how he is tomorrow. He told me after the game ‘I’m OK,’ so we’ll see how he feels and we’ll decide tomorrow if he plays or not.”
Overall, Betts went 1-for-5 with a strikeout.
— With the offense anemic through most of the game, not to be forgotten is the performance of the Red Sox bullpen.
Boston had to use five relievers over 5 1/3 innings, and it managed to keep the Orioles scoreless in that stretch while striking out nine. It didn’t matter the leverage, either. Joe Kelly relieved Wright with the bases juiced in the seventh and struck out Adam Jones to end the inning.
Brandon Workman surrendered the only hit, and the five-piece of Kelly, Brian Johnson, Workman, Heath Hembree and Craig Kimbrel combined to walk four batters.
— Suffice to say Holt had a birthday to remember. The utility man turned 30 years old Monday, and though he didn’t start he played a big role in the game.
Holt came in as a pinch hitter, and in his second at-bat of the night, he put the Sox on the board first with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the 12th inning. He’s put one professional at-bat after another together for Boston and has continued to be a key piece off the bench.
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