BOSTON -- The spot start turned into a sparkling start for knuckleballer Steven Wright, who mowed down the Tigers with ease on Tuesday night and led the Red Sox to a 6-0 victory in the opener of a six-game homestand.Manager Alex Cora figured that inserting Wright into the rotation on
BOSTON -- The spot start turned into a sparkling start for knuckleballer Steven Wright, who mowed down the Tigers with ease on Tuesday night and led the Red Sox to a 6-0 victory in the opener of a six-game homestand.
Manager Alex Cora figured that inserting Wright into the rotation on Tuesday would be a great way to provide rest for the other five starters, given the recent schedule of 26 games in 27 days.
Wright made the decision look brilliant as his knuckleball danced and darted and perplexed the Tigers, who managed just two hits over his seven innings.
"I was definitely trying to go out there and just go as deep as I was able to go," Wright said. "To be able to go seven was huge. I was lucky enough -- I got in at 1 in the morning [on Monday from Houston], they got in at about 10, so you know, it's definitely exciting and encouraging going forward. Just going to go out there and throw as many innings as I can."
The righty walked three and struck out six, throwing 96 pitches in his first start since April 29, 2017. Wright threw 96 pitches, which was impressive considering his season-high total was 68 in relief on May 18.
"That first inning, the first couple innings, I felt a little antsy, a little excited, nervous," Wright said. "It's been about a year and a half since I've been out there healthy throwing. It was definitely nice to get back out there."
With Thomas Pomeranz going on the disabled list prior to the game with tendinitis in his left biceps, Wright is likely to remain in the rotation at least in the short term.
"We definitely need Drew," Wright said. "I think he's going to be a huge factor going forward. I'll do whatever they want me to do in the meantime. I just want to pitch, so it doesn't matter, starting or relieving."
J.D. Martinez staked Wright out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first when he mauled his MLB-leading 20th homer off a light stanchion above the Green Monster in left-center. It was Martinez's first at-bat against the Tigers since they traded him to the D-backs last July.
"Feels satisfying anytime you hit a home run, doesn't matter who it's against," Martinez said.
Xander Bogaerts added a solo shot to the home bullpen in right-center in the fifth.
First baseman Mitch Moreland, whom Cora touted as an American League All-Star candidate prior to the game, had two more hits to raise his average to .310.
With the win, the Red Sox improved their MLB-best record to 42-19. And Wright helped keep the train moving as Boston joined the past two World Series champions (2016 Cubs, '17 Astros) as the only teams since '14 to win 42 of their first 61 games.
"Huge," Martinez said. "I think when [Wright] came in today and what he did, it was awesome. You have to give a lot of credit to a guy like that. Spot start, and a lot of people don't give that lineup credit, but they still have some really good hitters over there. So for him to do what he did was awesome."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Relay cuts down early run: The Tigers nearly took the 1-0 lead just two batters into the game, when Leonys Martin tried to score from first on a double off the Green Monster by Nicholas Castellanos. Andrew Benintendi fielded the carom off the wall perfectly and fired a one-hop relay to Bogaerts, who then made a tremendous throw to the plate. Christian Vazquez applied the tag, and Martin was out.
"Once they made that unbelievable relay in the first, I was able to kind of calm down a little bit," Wright said.
Martinez is in position to break the team record for most homers by the end of June. The current record is 24, which has been done four times, most recently by Manny Ramirez in 2001.
"That's just who he is," Cora said. "I keep saying it and I'm going to keep repeating myself probably the rest of the season, but he's a complete hitter."
Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (6-1, 3.88 ERA) will try to continue his recent roll when he pitches Wednesday's 7:10 p.m. ET against the Tigers. In his last five starts, Rodriguez is 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA. He is 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in three career starts against Detroit. The Tigers counter with lefty Blaine Hardy (2-0, 2.77 ERA).
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.