PAWTUCKET, R.I. – The last time Steven Wright was in action, he was bailing out a beleaguered Boston Red Sox bullpen – in last Friday’s 19-inning marathon at Yankee Stadium.
Wright tossed five innings of two-run ball in a game Boston eventually won 6-5.
Suffice to say the difference between the Wright who tamed the hitting-impaired Yankees and the Wright who pitched Thursday night in the Pawtucket Red Sox home opener against the Rochester Red Wings was baseball’s equivalent of the distance between the Earth and the moon.
Witness Wright’s final line in an 8-7 PawSox victory: 5-8-7-3-4-2 – replete with three wild pitches plus a hit batter and only 58 of 97 pitches for strikes.
Numbers like that won’t earn Wright a return ticket to Boston.
Numbers that will earn PawSox a ticket to Boston are the ones Pawtucket hung on the board during the last four innings.
Numbers like Bryce Brentz’s two-out, solo home run in the bottom of the ninth.
Numbers like back-to-back solo homers by Deven Marrero and Sean Coyle in the sixth.
Numbers like Blake Swihart’s two-run double in the seventh that tied the game at 7-7.
Brentz’s homer benefitted the PawSox in more ways than producing a victory.
“Absolutely that was a big hit especially with what’s happened with us,” said manager Kevin Boles. “On the road, we played so many innings. We had two extra-inning games. We had a double header. Our bullpen has been worked early on.
“To get that walk-off really saved the inventory in our bullpen.”
The Red Wings didn’t exactly rake Wright when they scored their first two runs in the third.
After Reynaldo Rodriguez reached on a soft, one-out single, he advanced to second on a wild pitch (the Achilles’ Heel of knuckleball pitchers) and scored on Eric Farris’ flare single to right.
Farris advanced to third when Brentz booted the ball for an error and scored on another soft single, this time by Eddie Rosario.
Rochester tacked on a third run in the fourth, due in large part to a pair of wild pitches. But of greater import was the fact Pawtucket ended a consecutive inning scoreless drought that had reached 22 1/3 innings in the bottom of the frame.
Jemile Weeks’ leadoff double ignited a three-run rally which featured a solid RBI single by Blake Swihart and a bases-loaded walk to Sean Coyle.
In the midst of this outburst, Brentz ended a 0-for-16 slump when he lined a shot off lefty Taylor Rogers for an infield hit.
Brutal is the appropriate adjective to describe what transpired in the Rochester sixth because the Red Wings scored four runs on a mere one hit.
Granted, a dropped fly ball by center fielder Quintin Berry didn’t help matters. But Wright, again, was his own worst enemy because he issued bases-loaded walks to Danny Ortiz and Rodriguez.
“I thought early on he looked okay,” Boles said of Wright. “I thought he had some feel for his knuckleball but then he ran into some trouble. It looked like his timing was a little bit off.
“There were some that were borderline. But we just weren’t able to get it in strike mode. I thought there were some pitches that were close. But I thought his rhythm and timing were a little bit off.”