ARLINGTON -- Steven Wright was forced to try to beat the heavy-hitting Rangers without a functional knuckleball on Saturday night at Globe Life Park, which is why he really didn't have much of a chance in a 10-3 loss.
For the first time this season, the American League's ERA leader had no feel for his best pitch, and was left to pay the price.
Of the 98 pitches Wright threw, only 56 were knuckleballs. And barely half of the knucklers (29 to be exact) were for strikes.
"I had a tough time throwing the knuckleball for a strike," said Wright, who fell to 8-5 with a 2.18 ERA. "I felt like I couldn't throw a good one over the plate. I had to rely a lot of my fastball. When I do that, it's usually not going to be a good day for me. I couldn't throw a knuckleball to save my life today, so it was a tough day."
The only other shaky outing Wright had this season was on a rain-soaked night at Fenway, when he had a hard time gripping the ball.
Did the heat in Texas impact him this time?
"That's what I was getting flustered by, because I felt fine. The ball was spinning a lot out of my hand," Wright said. "You'd think it was a little harder to grip the ball because of the humidity, but it was the opposite. It wasn't slippery, it was real sticky."
Over 4 2/3 innings, Wright gave up seven hits and eight runs (three earned). Errors by Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez led to the Rangers pounding Wright for five unearned runs in the fifth.
"The fifth inning tonight is the story in this one," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "We have a golden opportunity in the top of the fifth. We narrow it to a 3-2 ballgame and unfortunately [Dustin Pedroia] rolls into the ground-ball double play, and then the defense, which has been a strong suit of ours, you know you give a team a couple extra outs, that's not characteristic of what we're capable of and it ends up being a five-run inning."
After Ramirez's error, which would have been the third out, the Red Sox were still in the game, down 4-2.
When Elvis Andrus worked the count to 3-2, Wright came in with an 86-mph fastball and a predictable result. Andrus hammered it for a bases-clearing triple.
"They probably were looking for it the whole time because I wasn't able to show I could throw the knuckleball for strikes," Wright said. "Good teams like that, they'll be patient. Even when I did throw my fastball, it was up. It was a tough time overall, trying to get the ball down. Even when I did throw my fastball in a good count, when it's up, it defeats the whole purpose."
As impressive as Wright has been for the Red Sox all season, he was probably due for a clunker.
"I feel like I still should have been able to figure it out, but it was one of those things where I started trying too hard, getting too extended, and when I do that -- I tried changing speeds," Wright said. "I tried throwing curveballs. I was trying to throw the kitchen sink at them. It wasn't working."
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.