HOUSTON – A domed stadium used to be sweet music to Tim Wakefield’s ears. It meant the knuckleball was in a contained environment which usually led to better movement and a more dramatic break to the ball.
Steven Wright had those conditions last night. But he had too much of it. Even though Ryan Lavarnway had caught him eight times at Pawtucket, Wright would last only one inning and allow three runs, while Lavarnway was charged with four passed balls.
There was some head-scratching as to why Wright would even start a game during a pennant drive. A confluence of events — the dome, the opponent (the lowly Astros) — all came into play. Red Sox manager John Farrell, however, pulled the plug on the experiment quickly when he realized the movement of the ball was too much to harness.
Down 3-0 after one, 5-0 after two, the Red Sox recovered for a 15-10 win over the Houston Astros.
Lavarnway made up for the passed balls with a big two-run double in the fifth inning to give the Red Sox an 8-7 lead for good.
“I don’t think that’s how anyone would have drawn it up, but that’s the way it goes with knuckleballers – feast or famine,” Lavarnway said.
As for the big hit, “It was awesome. That’s a game where nobody ever gave up. Nobody quit. We know that we have the capabilities offensively.”
Lavarnway said it was the most movement he’s ever seen Wright have.
“I don’t know why it was,” Lavarnway said of the possibility of the dome raising havoc. “He’s been brilliant the last two times out. Sometimes it just goes the other way.”
Wright said, “It was moving a lot. It was hard to contain sometimes and tonight I couldn’t make that adjustment. It was hard to keep it in the strike zone.”
Asked whether he felt for Lavarnway, Wright said, “Yeah it’s a tough pitch. Usually, I can keep I within a certain area of the strike zone.”
He said pitching in a dome for the first time, “It was different. It was moving a lot more than I anticipated. I felt good out there. I was all over the place and wasn’t able to contain it. It was moving more than I ever had in my life.”