In Third Start, Knuckleball Pitcher Wright’s String of No-Run Innings Is Broken

We’d been hoping that Steven Wright’s recent streak of allowing no runs would last a few hundred more innings or so. On Saturday, though, he did allow a single run. Since the pitchers on the Seattle Mariners—especially Wade LeBlanc—didn’t allow any, the result was a 1-0 loss for the Sox. (A day later the Sox beat the Mariners 9-3, with Eduardo Rodriguez as the starting pitcher for the Sox.)

Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald believes that in Saturday’s game Wright was “nearly as good” as LeBlanc, who threw “an astounding 73 strikes on 98 pitches…” Wright, for his part, was responsible for

68 strikes on 106 pitches across seven innings. He allowed just one run, scored on three singles in the third inning. (The Mariners had only five hits.) It’s the only run Wright has allowed in his three starts this year.

“I faced Wade back in college so I’ve followed him his entire career. That’s his game,” Wright said. “Change speeds, throw cutters and changeups. Today he did an unbelievable job. From his numbers, it seems like he’s been doing a pretty good job all year.”

Changing speeds is also what Wright does with his knuckleball.

Summing up the same game, the Boston Globe’s Curtis Crabtree observed that “Wright (2-1) held Seattle to just one run and five hits with two walks and four strikeouts over seven innings…. [The run] snapped Wright’s string of 25 1/3 scoreless innings, which topped the stretch of 25 scoreless innings by Oakland’s Daniel Mengden for the longest in the majors this season.”

Thus, until Saturday Wright hadn’t given up a run in some two dozen straight innings. As one of our consultants has noted, “His earned run average (ERA) is probably the best in baseball, but he hasn’t pitched enough innings” for his current-season performance to be fairly compared to those who have been pitching since the beginning of the 2018 season. (The Baseball Reference site currently reports an ERA for Steven Wright of 1.23 for 2018, 3.66 for his entire career.) It wasn’t until mid-May that Wright was back in play this season.

Still, 25+ scoreless innings in a row is pretty darn good (and no fluke!).

So what are the chances that Wright, currently pinch-pitching for Drew Pomerantz, will continue as a starter? Christopher Evens thinks it depends on what we just saw. On the day of Saturday’s game, he wrote:

Tonight, Wright is making his third start since being added to the rotation just before Pomeranz began suffering from biceps tendinitis and was put on the shelf….

Which pitcher makes the Sox better out of the rotation right now? It’s hard to argue against Wright, given the way he’s been rolling. He’s consistently eating up innings, a more valuable asset as a starter….

“I feel like I’m still working on some mechanical stuff to be more consistent, but I think that’s everybody,” Wright said. “Nobody is going to be perfect. I feel really confident in my knee and in my shoulder. I’ve been feeling good going out there so it allows me to work more on the quality knuckleballs because I’m not thinking about my knee or my shoulder, I’m just thinking about making good pitches.”

A third good start from Wright tonight and the Red Sox shouldn’t have a very difficult decision to make when Pomeranz is ready to return.

Maybe. Although the game was a loss for the Sox, Wright’s third start was a good one. Whether or not he is kept on as a starting pitcher, we expect he’ll do fine.

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