'What we learned': Red Sox’ 11-6 win over Rangers
BOSTON - Three things we learned from the Boston Red Sox' 11-6 win over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night. . .
1) Steven Wright knows he has to be more careful with his fastball use
Before Wednesday's start, manager John Farrell talked about the need for Wright to use his fastball more judiciously, fearing that, in recent starts, he had thrown it in too many predictable counts.
"The (last two outings), I definitely used it more than I normally do,'' acknowledged Wright. "I wasn't using it in surprise counts.''
But when the Red Sox jumped out to a big lead, the temptation was there for Wright to use the fastball to be more aggressive, induce quicker contact and get his team back in the dugout.
"Me and (catcher Ryan Hanigan) actually talked about it when we got up by eight or nine runs,'' said Wright, "to get ahead with fastballs, but stick with the knuckleball. Because if I throw too many fastballs, I lose the feel for the knuckleball. But if throw the fastball off the knuckleball, then usually I'm OK.''
2) It's scoreboard-watching season
With the All-Star break days away, teams are more cognizant of where they sit in the standings and recognize what they need to do.
David Ortiz admitted as much after the win over Texas. The loss Tuesday had temporarily dropped into third place, a half-game behind Toronto in the A.L. East. The Red Sox' goal is to win the division, and not settle for the wild-card, where teams can see their season end with one bad inning.
As it happens, the Red Sox didn't pick up any ground as the Jays won again to remain a half-game ahead of the Sox, but in the bigger picture, the Red Sox can take some solace in the fact that they've won two straight series -- one against Los Angeles and another against Texas.
After a poor road trip that saw the Sox go 2-4 in Texas and Tampa Bay, a sense of urgency enveloped the Sox, who've gone 4-2 in their six games since July began.
"Getting your starters to (regularly) go into the seventh inning,'' said Farrell, "that certainly goes a long way (in stabilizing things). We've been able to do that the last couple of nights. But we've made much better baseball, with the exception of the one game (a 21-2 loss to the Angels Saturday) here this month. It's good to get a couple of series wins back-to-back.''
3) Craig Kimbrel wanted the ball
Kimbrel endured what was perhaps the single worst outing of his career Tuesday night, failing to retire a single hitter while being belted around for four runs.
That further highlighted Kimbrel's ongoing issues in non-save situations, during which Kimbrel has pitched to a 4.75 ERA.
Given that, Kimbrel spoke with Farrell before Wednesday's game and asked for an opportunity to pitch again. He had thrown only 12 pitches Tuesday and with an off-day Thursday, the Sox didn't have to concern themselves with wasting an outing.
The Sox want Kimbrel to pitch as aggressively in non-save opportunities as he does with the game on the line.
"More than anything,'' said Farrell, "(the key) is to pitch regardless of the score. Easier said than done at times, but still, a pitcher's No. 1 job is to execute a pitch in the moment, regardless of the inning, or situation. He was able to do that much better tonight.''
Kimbrel got two quick outs before losing two hitters and issuing consecutive walks. But he came back and overpowered Ryan Rua for the final out.
The two walks suggested some command issues, but at least Kimbrel wasn't being whacked around the way he was Tuesday.