Weather impacts Wright's knuckleball movement

May 14th, 2016

BOSTON -- Whether it was the elements, the opponent or just an off night, Steven Wright had his most difficult outing of the season, as the Red Sox lost to the Astros, 7-6, at Fenway Park on Friday night, snapping their season-high five-game winning streak.

With a steady rain falling throughout the game and a 12-mph wind blowing out from the start, the knuckleballer lasted just 4 1/3 innings, his shortest outing since July 25, 2015, when he went the same distance in a loss to the Tigers at Fenway.

"A huge factor," Wright said of the weather. "It got to the point where I couldn't keep anything dry, which, you're trying to throw a pitch with your fingertips, it makes it a little slippery, hard to get a finger pressure. But they swung at some good pitches to hit. The ball wasn't moving as much because of the finger pressure issue. But we got a [four-run] lead, I feel like I got to be able to hold that, try to get a little bit deeper into the game and just turn it over to the bullpen."

Wright gave up five runs on nine hits and two walks with three strikeouts. The five runs matched the total from his three previous starts, spanning 22 innings. His ERA rose from 1.52 -- fourth-best in the Majors entering Friday's game -- to 2.36.

Wright faced six batters in the first inning, giving up one run. Leadoff hitter Jose Altuve singled, went to second on George Springer's groundout, took third on Colby Rasmus' two-out infield single and scored on Marwin Gonzalez's single to center field.

Wright settled down in the second, retiring the side in order. Holding a 5-1 lead in the third, he walked Altuve and gave up a single to Springer. Carlos Correa then lined into a double play and Rasmus struck out looking to end the inning. Wright retired the side in order again in the fourth.

The fifth inning, however, was Wright's undoing. Jason Castro doubled and No. 9 hitter Jake Marisnick, who entered the game hitting .048, bunted for a single. Altuve singled to right, scoring Castro. Springer doubled, scoring two runs, and Correa walked before Rasmus grounded out. After Gonzalez singled to center for Houston's fourth run of the inning, Wright was replaced by right-hander Matt Barnes.

"The first big inning he's allowed in a good number of starts," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "They bunched some hits together. I can't say that the rain had an effect on the action to the knuckleball. It may have caused some issues with grip. That's the one thing we were a little concerned about going into tonight's game with the weather as it was. But he was getting through the game OK."

The outing snapped Wright's string of six straight starts going at least six innings and allowing two or fewer runs this season, and 10 straight starts going back to last season in that game against the Tigers.

Wright considered mixing in more fastballs and curveballs to limit the effects of the elements.

"Yeah, I thought about it, but at the same time, if I'm going to get beat, I'm going to get beat with my best pitch regardless of the situation, because I felt like I was able to get movement," Wright said. "So even though they were loud outs, they were outs. So I think that's kind of what we were thinking -- mix in some fastballs, mix in some curveballs. In the end, if I'm going to go down, I'm going to go down using my best pitch, which is still my knuckleball."