BALTIMORE (AP) — Just when it appeared Steven Wright had finally gained command of his fluttering knuckleball, the Baltimore Orioles found their groove.
The result: Another early exit for the 2016 All-Star in Boston’s 4-2 loss Saturday night.
Trey Mancini and Jonathan Schoop homered in succession off Wright, Jayson Aquino won his first big league start and the Orioles used one big inning to secure their fourth straight victory.
Baltimore will seek to complete a three-game sweep on Sunday. The Orioles have not lost a series this year and own the best record in the majors (12-4).
After limiting Baltimore to three hits over the first three innings, Wright (1-2) gave up two singles, two doubles and two home runs in the fourth. Chris Davis doubled, Mancini and Schoop homered and Adam Jones chased Wright with an RBI single.
“Obviously, I felt pretty good at the beginning and then one inning got away from me,” Wright said. “They hit mistakes. That’s what makes them good.”
Wright (1-2) allowed four runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings. Just 10 days earlier, the right-hander got only four outs and yielded eight runs against Baltimore at Fenway Park.
In just under 18 innings this season, Wright has given up seven homers and 17 earned runs.
“It’s not as unpredictable this year as it was last year,” he said of his knuckler. “It’s not really moving. I am trying to get the violence back into the pitch.”
Aquino (1-0) allowed two runs and six hits over six innings to earn his first career victory. The 24-year-old lefty previously pitched three times in relief, all last year with Baltimore.
After breaking into professional ball with the Rockies’ organization in 2010 and bouncing from one minor league team to another, Aquino just might have found a home.
“It’s been a tough process. I’ve been through a few organizations right now,” he said through a translator. “But I’m just thankful to the Orioles for this opportunity and allowing me to start a game at the major league level.”
Mychal Givens pitched two perfect innings, Donnie Hart got two outs in the ninth and Darren O’Day finished for his first save.
Jackie Bradley Jr. homered for the Red Sox, who were without injured second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
Bradley put the Red Sox up 2-0 in the third with his first home run, a shot onto Eutaw Street beyond the right-field scoreboard. Boston came in with only seven home runs, fewest in the big leagues.
At that point, it appeared Wright was more than capable of protecting the lead. But he never made it out of the fourth.
“On a night when we’re scuffling to put points on the board, that four-run inning looms large,” Boston manager John Farrell said.
The big hit was delivered by Mancini, whose team-high fifth long ball of the year soared into the seats in left-center. He has eight homers in 17 big league games over two seasons.
Two of them came against Wright, including one in that April 12 game.
“He was a little more on today, I’d say, especially early on,” Mancini said of Wright. “Luckily, my second at-bat, he just left one up that I put a good swing on.”
Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph snapped an 0-for-23 skid with a third-inning single and added a double in the fourth.
Joseph’s slump began last September and included 12 at-bats this season. He’s still looking for his first RBI since the 2015 season.
Red Sox: Pedroia missed the game with a sore left knee and ankle but hopes to return Sunday. The injuries occurred when he was spiked by Manny Machado on Friday night.
Orioles: All-Star closer Zach Britton (forearm strain) will be examined by a hand specialist Monday and could resume throwing on that day. … RHP Chris Tillman (shoulder) allowed three runs over 3 2/3 innings against Harrisburg in a rehabilitation outing with Double-A Bowie. … OF Joey Rickard (sprained finger) took soft-toss swings in a session manager Buck Showalter called “very encouraging.”
Red Sox: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1, 4.76 ERA) takes the mound Sunday in the series finale.
Orioles: RHP Kevin Gausman (1-1, 7.23) makes his fifth start of the season. He’s allowed 26 hits in 18 2/3 innings.
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