NEW YORK (AP) — A first-time All-Star at age 31, Steven Wright traveled across the country and never got to pitch.
That gave the AL ERA leader an early start to the second half, and the knuckleballer pitched the Boston Red Sox over the New York Yankees 5-3 Friday night.
Wright originally was slated to pitch Saturday, but Red Sox manager John Farrell called him at 3 p.m. Thursday and asked him to start the second-half opener.
“I wasn’t expecting it, but I had a feeling there could be a good chance because I didn’t throw in the All-Star Game,” Wright said.
Pitching on eight days’ rest, Wright (11-5) won for the eighth time in nine decisions. Ryan Hanigan, Travis Shaw and Xander Bogaerts homered off Michael Pineda (3-9) as Boston won its fifth straight.
When Wright arrived in San Diego, AL manager Ned Yost informed the pitcher he likely would not appear.
“It’s definitely a bummer,” Wright said. “I was going to be the emergency, because they didn’t want to end in a tie, and I was the only guy that was capable of going multiple innings. And I was like, fine.”
He needed just 39 pitches to get through four innings against the Yankees and retired his first 14 batters before Alex Rodriguez hit a slow hopper the pitcher couldn’t come up with on a bare-hand try about 45 feet from the plate on the third base side.
“There was quite a bit of violence to the knuckleball,” Farrell said.
New York closed the gap with a three-run sixth, when Wright hit Chase Headley on the thigh with a pitch and loaded the bases with a walk to Jacoby Ellsbury. Carlos Beltran had a two-run single on a ball that zipped past first baseman Hanley Ramirez and down the right-field line, and Brian McCann hit an RBI grounder as Ramirez bounced his throw to second, eliminating the possibility of an inning-ending double play.
“I gave up one hard-hit ball the entire night. It just happened to be with the bases loaded,” Wright said.
He improved to 4-1 against the Yankees, allowing three runs and three hits in six innings as his ERA rose from 2.68 to 2.78.
Hanigan’s third-inning homer was his first since last Aug. 19 off Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, and the ball was caught by reliever Robbie Ross Jr., who stuck out his cap to snag it in the visitors’ bullpen in left field.
“When that ball was hit, I was like, that ball’s going out, I’m going right for it. I got 4 1/2,” Ross said of his season total. “The half was the one where Brock (Holt) hit it off the top of the fence and I caught it.”
Shaw hit a two-run homer in the fifth, and Bogaerts made it 5-0 with a two-run drive in the sixth.
“It kind of looked like we needed a time through the order to get back in sync after the break,” Farrell said.
Brad Ziegler and Ross followed Wright with an inning apiece, and Koji Uehara finished the four-hitter for his fifth save, his third since closer Craig Kimbrel hurt a knee.
Pineda (3-9) gave up five runs and five hits in five-plus innings, leaving him with a 5.56 ERA and 18 home runs allowed in 18 starts this season. New York (44-45) is under .500 after the All-Star break for the first time since 1995.
“It’s one game, guys,” Beltran said. “We have to focus on winning series, especially against teams that are in our division.”
IN THE SEATS
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, announced by Donald Trump as his pick for Republican vice presidential nominee, was in the crowd of 47,459, the Yankees’ fourth home sellout this season.
WHAT, ME WORRY?
David Ortiz laughed at the notion his comments this week that Boston should sign Edwin Encarnacion to replace him next season could be construed as improper.
“Tampering? I don’t write no paycheck,” Ortiz said. “I can say whatever I want. I’m not a GM or a team owner. If I say tomorrow that I want to play with LeBron James, am I tampering, too?”
Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa, on the disabled list with a right shoulder impingement, threw a 25-pitch bullpen. He has another session scheduled for Sunday and likely will be activated when he becomes eligible Tuesday. … RHP Joe Kelly allowed a hit in two innings and struck out three for Triple-A Pawtucket against Charlotte. … Ramirez and Holt played for the first time since July 8 against Tampa Bay, when Ramirez fouled a ball off his left shin and Holt sprained his left ankle.
LHP CC Sabathia (5-6) is scheduled to start Saturday for New York, and LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (1-3) for Boston following his recall from the minors on Friday. Rodriguez is 3-1 with a 2.22 ERA in four career starts against the Yankees.
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