Wright-ing the ship: Knuckler stymies Astros

Wright-ing the ship: Knuckler stymies Astros

HOUSTON -- It was another validating effort for Steven Wright, perhaps even staking a claim to a "more permanent" rotation spot, as manager John Farrell hinted before the Red Sox's 6-2 win over the Astros on Friday night.

But the last taste of Wright's night in a commanding 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball was a negative one, with the knuckleballer visibly frustrated exiting with a runner on and two outs.

"It's something I don't think I can ever live with, because there's no way to defend a walk, and so I feel like that's why I got so frustrated," Wright said of the three walks he issued in his final frame. "Yeah, I wanted to finish the inning, but if I limit [the walks], maybe I get a chance to come out for the eighth."

Forgive the right-handed hurler for a minute if he's nitpicking. Right now, there's just not much for him to clean up.

Sure, Wright walked five and allowed four hits, but he scattered them all. Wright delivered a gem precisely when Boston needed it, saving a taxed bullpen and earning a third straight quality start to open the season.

"He's been the most consistent starter without question," Farrell said of Wright's hot April. "Going back to the conversation in Spring Training and not knowing where he was going to break with us. Just going out and pitching, and he does a great job of that in any role.

"To pitch the innings he's doing, he's been the stabilizer in our rotation."

Wright himself said after the game that his goal was "just to make the team out of Spring Training." And while he wasn't expected to be an ace, he's not exactly a completely unheralded arm either.

Wright has allowed two earned runs or less in his past seven starts dating to last September, tied for the longest active streak in the American League. Wright has a 2.06 ERA in those seven outings, with only a 3-3 record. Friday's win was his first of the season after starting 0-2 despite allowing three runs combined in his initial pair of starts vs. the Blue Jays.

"I was just trying to stay in control," Wright said. "If I stay relaxed, it's easier for me to repeat my delivery and release point, and it makes it easier to throw strikes."

Against a plucky and powerful Astros lineup loaded at the top, Farrell said Wright's great performance amounted to more than just the sum of his pitches.

"To his credit, he does a lot of the little things inside the game: control the running game, fielding his position in addition to throwing a lot of strikes against a young, aggressive fastball-hitting team that was a very good matchup," Farrell said. "Once again, his knuckleball had a lot of action. [Catcher Ryan] Hanigan had to battle it most of the night back there."

That movement allowed Wright to strike out six hitters, but it also allowed for Houston's first run to cross the plate on a passed ball in the seventh.

"I think I was rushing a little bit," Wright said.

Though the Sox have a potential abundance of starters waiting in the wings like the rehabbing Eduardo Rodriguez, they won't be rushing them back anytime soon. At least not to unseat Wright, so long as he keeps flummoxing the American League with his mercurial knuckleballs.

Chris Abshire is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.