Wright's rise continues with masterful 3-hitter

Wright's rise continues with masterful 3-hitter

NEW YORK -- Steven Wright's emergence has been a growing story with the Red Sox this season. On Sunday, it hit prime time, as the knuckleballer produced his best performance yet.

Wright went the distance with a three-hitter and came one out from a shutout, downing the Yankees, 5-1, on Sunday Night Baseball at Yankee Stadium.

Brett Gardner ripped Wright's 2-1 pitch over the wall in right with two outs in the ninth, but that didn't lessen his night in the least.

"Obviously it would have been great to get a shutout, but it was more important for me just to throw strikes," said Wright. "Up, 5-0, I wasn't going to walk [Gardner]. I figured I'd take my chances, and he put a really good swing on it. We still got the win. That's the biggest factor in the whole game."

It was Wright's first career complete game, as he lowered his ERA to 1.52, placing him behind only Jordan Zimmermann in the American League. Wright stifled the Yankees on just 101 pitches, walking one and striking out seven.

Considering the way Wright is pitching, it's hard to believe he didn't even lock down a spot in the starting rotation until the end of Spring Training. And had Eduardo Rodriguez not started the season on the disabled list, Wright very likely would have opened the year as a long reliever.

Though Rodriguez and Joe Kelly are both due back from DL stints soon, Wright's spot in the rotation is safe.

"I think his pitching is speaking loud and clear," said Red Sox manager John Farrell.

Wright's emergence as a consistent starter actually began down the stretch in 2015, but it was a storyline that got lost in the shuffle for a team that was out of contention.

This season, the 31-year-old is proving he is no fluke.

"He's been extremely dependable," said Farrell. "You have a pretty good sense of what he's going to give you each time he walks to the mound, and tonight, as good as he's pitched, he was in complete control."

Aiding Wright's performance was the perfect pitching conditions at Yankee Stadium.

"Yeah, it definitely helps when the wind's not blowing as hard," said Wright. "There was a little bit of breeze, but there wasn't as much. It was almost like throwing inside. As long as the wind stays consistent, the knuckleball is going to be somewhat consistent. That was definitely helpful today."

Wright joins Roger Clemens (1991 and '93) and Clay Buchholz (2013) as the only Red Sox pitchers in the last 50 years to start the season by going at least six innings and allowing two earned runs or fewer in six straight starts.

"I feel like I've always had the same confidence," Wright said. "It's nice to go out there and be able to do well. A lot of guys have helped me along the way to keep the rhythm, especially on this team. I just try to go out there and keep the same confidence, no matter if I'm doing good or bad."

And, yes, Wright is having the time of his life at the moment.

"It's fun," Wright said. "I just want to pitch. As long as I can get an opportunity to pitch, I'm going to enjoy every minute of it and just go out there and try to attack the zone."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.