Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Steven Wright finally showed weakness, succumbing to the Houston Astros last night. Just don’t count him out yet.
Sure, Wright was the fifth starter in the rotation when the 2016 season started. Of course, everyone expected him to bleed runs by being a knuckleball pitcher. Yet, nobody expected Wright of being this good, which is why last night’s game against the Astros was a tough one to watch.
Everything was as it has been for days: the Red Sox offense pounded five runs early in the game, giving their starting pitcher a lead. It wasn’t until the top of the fifth inning that the Fenway Park faithful witnessed Wright’s collapse. Two doubles and two singles, scoring three runs before recording an out, prompted a coach’s visit to the mound, which was the precursor to a walk of the next batter. A groundout and another single to score the tying run was all that Red Sox manager John Farrell was willing to see of Wright, as he brought in Matt Barnes in for relief.
Barnes, eventually in the later innings, gave up the winning runs, but it was Wright who was responsible for losing the big lead. Wright allowed five earned runs in 4.1 innings of work.
In seven starts, Wright has a 3-3 record, but his ERA inflated in that one game to only 2.36. His record is more about the lack of run support than his performance, at least until last night. In 45.2 innings, Wright has allowed 12 earned runs on 34 hits, 18 walks, and 41 strikeouts. Not bad for a knuckler with a pitch designed for hitters to hit, even if it comes off of the bat badly.
Even with the bad inning, Wright was still doing reasonably well in the game. He remains the best pitcher, statistically, on the Red Sox pitching staff, with the closest being Rick Porcello with a 3.11 ERA. The only difference is the optics of their records, with Porcello having a 6-1 total.
Red Sox Nation should tell themselves that it was just one game. Really, just one bad inning. It’s not like Wright has been ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ like Clay Buchholz and the supposed-free-agent ace David Price, where both men have an ERA out of character for when they signed with Boston.
Wright was supposed to be the fifth starter, but he has looked nothing but dominant. With the troubles that the Astros have had with their bats and scoring runs, nobody was expecting the bad inning. But hey, it’s baseball: innings like that happen. If Wright continues to pitch more like he did in the first six starts, or even the first four innings of last night’s game, nobody is going to care about this slip in his performance. In fact, people may start to suspect Wright of needing to be paid more money in the future.