Three things we learned from Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Astros
1) Steven Wright has been the Red Sox Most Valuable Pitcher in the first three weeks of the season
By Sean McAdam
Wright only made the rotation at the start of the season because Eduardo Rodriguez (knee) was injured and because Henry Owens couldn't throw strikes in the spring competition.
But Wright has been invaluable to the staff, making three quality starts in three tries. Wright had some difficulty late in his start throwing strikes, issuing three walks in the seventh, leading to his exit. But that's the nature of his signature knuckler -- sometimes, it's too good for its own good, with more movement than the pitcher would like.
Wright is just 1-2 in those three starts thanks to poor run support, but could easily be 3-0.
Either way, he's provided length and quality innings to a rotation that has been spotty at best through the first 16 games.
It had seemed like a foregone conclusion that Wright would be bumped to the bullpen as soon as Rodriguez is ready to return. But given that that's still a couple of weeks away, a lot could happen between now and then. And that could include Wright remaining in the rotation while someone else gets taken out of the rotation to make room for the return of Rodriguez.
2) Mookie Betts has officially broken out of his slump
During the last homestand, Betts scuffled at the plate, with just six hits in the span of 30 at-bats, prompting some -- including me -- to suggest that maybe it was time to drop him down in the batting order, at least in the short term.
But starting Wednesday night, Betts began to bust out in a big way. He had two walks, a homer, a single, two runs scored and a stolen base. It continued in the homestand finale, with two more hits including another homer.
As it turned out, those two games were merely the appetizer for Friday night in Houston. Betts laced a triple, a double, and a single in his first three at-bats, building interest as he needed just a homer to complete the cycle.
He flied out in the seventh, and with one last chance in the ninth, laced a triple to right-center, giving him nine total bases to go along with three runs scored.
Betts won't stay this hot forever, of course. But the key, as Betts himself has acknowledged, is to limit the slumps better than he has in the past.
3) Robbie Ross's issues in the ninth forced Craig Kimbrel into a game for which he shouldn't have been needed
Ross took over in the ninth with the Red Sox comfortably ahead 6-1.
But Ross couldn't get through the inning without incident, allowing a leadoff single, a one-out walk and a two-out run-scoring single.
That was too close for comfort for John Farrell, who went to Kimbrel to face Carlos Correa, with the potential tying run on deck.
Kimbrel got the dangerous Correa on a groundout for the final out and needed just six pitches to close out the game for his fifth save. But every bit of extra work takes its toll on a bullpen and Friday -- with a five-run lead and three outs to go -- should have been a night that Kimbrel didn't have to even get warm, never mind get into the game.
At some point, Farrell has to have some low-leverage relievers.