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Sox get Wright stuff but can't solve LeBlanc

June 16, 2018

SEATTLE -- Facing career swingman Wade LeBlanc, the Red Sox generated no swings of impact on Saturday. Instead, they were handcuffed all day by Seattle's lefty in a 1-0 loss in front of a packed house of 44,151 at Safeco Field.The first batter LeBlanc faced was Mookie Betts, and he

SEATTLE -- Facing career swingman Wade LeBlanc, the Red Sox generated no swings of impact on Saturday. Instead, they were handcuffed all day by Seattle's lefty in a 1-0 loss in front of a packed house of 44,151 at Safeco Field.
The first batter LeBlanc faced was Mookie Betts, and he opened the game with a single to left. The final batter for LeBlanc was Eduardo Nunez, who punched a two-out single to right in the seventh.
In between those two hits, the 33-year-old LeBlanc didn't allow a single baserunner.
"He kept the ball down, kept it out of the middle of the plate. Got to give credit where credit is due," said Betts.
Steven Wright was at the top of his game for the third straight start since replacing the injured Thomas Pomeranz in the starting rotation. With his knuckleball dancing all over the place, Wright flustered the Mariners during his seven-inning performance, allowing five hits and a run while walking two and striking out four.
"Outstanding," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Wright. "Coming out of the bullpen, he gave us a chance to win ballgames, and now as a starter, he's doing the same thing. He's going deep in the ballgames. We're playing good defense behind him. He's holding runners, fielding his position. Everything you ask from a starter, he's doing it. He'll get the ball next time, I think it's against them, and he'll give us a chance to win."
Nelson Cruz's two-out, RBI single in the third accounted for the only run of a game that lasted just two hours and 22 minutes.
"I did what I wanted to do with those guys, get them to hit the ball on the ground, they just found some holes," said Wright. "That's just what happens when you're a contact pitcher, you give up some hits."
In Wright's three starts this season, he's allowed one run over 20 2/3 innings.
"Obviously, it's nice to feel good," Wright said. "It's been a while since I've been able to feel good throwing. It's good. Just try to simplify. I don't try to think too much about missing time. I just try to stay aggressive with the pitch and keep it over the plate."
This was the second-longest start of his career and he struck out nine, one shy of a career high.
In the midst of his own gem, LeBlanc enjoyed watching Wright.
"That's incredible. That's fun to watch," LeBlanc said. "You have to watch that. It's like the opposite of when Randy Johnson would pitch. It's something you don't see very often, so when it's out there, you have to kind of take it in."
For Wright, the matchup was a trip down memory lane.
"I faced Wade back in college so I've followed him his entire career," Wright said. "That's his game. 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."
First chance was best: At the outset of the game, there was no reason to believe the Red Sox were going to get completely stifled. Betts worked a nine-pitch at-bat before that leadoff single and up stepped Andrew Benintendi, one of Boston's best hitters. On the fourth pitch of his at-bat, Benintendi scorched a 102.7-mph grounder, but it was to second baseman Dee Gordon, who started a 4-6-3 double play.
"He left a pitch over the plate, and Benny put a good swing on it. That was it, honestly," said Cora. "I think we hit, what, three balls in the air? We didn't do much. You have to give him credit. He stayed on the edges of the strike zone. He was good. He was really, really good."
"He reminded me of that guy on the wall over there, Jamie Moyer. He was outstanding. Backdoor cutters. Front-door sinkers. Front-door cutters to lefties. Then he mixed up his breaking ball halfway through the game. A good changeup. We were trying to make adjustments and it seems like velocity was coming down in the last part of the game, but the movement was still there, his changeup was outstanding, and he had a great night, and we didn't." -- Cora, speaking about LeBlanc while he looked directly at a framed picture of Moyer in the visiting manager's office
On a day they were trying to scratch out any offense they could get, the Red Sox had some hope for a base hit when Xander Bogaerts rifled a grounder in the second-base hole in the fifth. But for the second straight day, Gordon robbed him on a tremendous diving stop. Bogaerts went head-first into the bag and looked like he might have been safe. Cora issued a challenge, but there wasn't enough evidence for a reversal. The call stood. Bogaerts had a hit probability of 44 percent on the 101.3-mph grounder.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (8-1, 3.64 ERA) draws the start in the Father's Day finale of this four-game series between top American League contenders. Rodriguez continues to pitch well for the Red Sox, but he's gone less than six innings in six of his last seven starts. The Mariners counter with righty Mike Leake (7-3, 4.26). First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. ET. With a win, the Red Sox can salvage a split before heading off to Minneapolis for the final leg of this three-city, 10-game road trip through three different time zones.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.