'What we learned': Red Sox win 8-1 over the Twins
What we learned: Red Sox win 8-1 over the Twins
What we learned from the Red Sox 8-1 win over the Minnesota Twins . . .
1) Steven Wright is unflappable.
It doesn't seem to matter where Wright is pitching, to whom he's throwing or against whom he's pitching. No matter the location, battery-mate or opponent, Wright has been a marvel of consistency.
That was on display again Friday. Ordinarily, there's a real bond between a knuckleballer and his receiver, since the pitch can be hard to corral. But with Ryan Hanigan on the disabled list, Wright had to throw to Christian Vazquez for the first time as a starter this season.
It didn't bother either the pitcher or catcher. Vazquez was charged with one passed ball, but it hardly had much of an outcome on the game, though it helped to lead to the one run (unearned) the Twins mustered off Wright.
Otherwise, the two worked together well and fell right into a regular rhythm from the early innings.
Wright doesn't seem to mind whether he's pitching inside or outdoors, in windy weather or a hot night. In 12 starts this season, he's given the Sox 10 quality starts as we move into mid-June, he sports the lowest ERA of any qualifying American League starter.
"He's the same guy whenever he walks into the clubhouse,'' noted John Farrell, "regardless of where that clubhouse might be.''
2) The Twins are bad, and it's up to the Red Sox to take full advantage of that fact.
This strange, five-game road trip offers a stunning contrast in quality of opponents. From Tuesday and Wednesday's series in San Francisco to this weekend set in Minneapolis, the Red Sox moved from facing one of the best, all-around teams in the game (the Giants) to, inarguably, one of the worst (the Twins).
Minnesota has the worst record in the American League and in their series opener against the Red Sox, lived down to that reputation. There's little the Twins do well right now.
It would behoove the Sox to capitalize on this series and sweep the Twins. Minnesota will send a starter with a 6.10 ERA to the mound Saturday and another with an ERA of 4.75 out for the series finale Sunday.
Earlier this season, the Sox took full advantage of a stretch that had them facing the Braves -- the worst team in baseball this season -- and a slumping Astros team that was struggling.
It's time for the Sox to do the same to the hapless Twins, especially since the schedule gets far more challenging when the Sox return home. Beginning Tuesday, the Sox will play two teams in contention for their division leads (Baltimore and Seattle), another series with the contending Chicago White Sox, then go on the road to meet Texas, yet another playoff contender.
3) Roenis Elias has made himself the clear favorite to win the fifth starter spot.
There's still more than a week to go before the Red Sox need to return to a fifth starter in their rotation, but with another strong start for Pawtucket Friday night, Elias has effectively ended the competition.
Elias pitched seven shutout innings for the Pawsox at McCoy Friday and over his last five starts, he's allowed just eight runs over 36 innings while striking out 40 and walking only eight. That represents a 2.00 ERA while averaging more than a strikeout per inning.
Nominally, Clay Buchholz and Henry Owens are still comepting for the spot, but it's hard to see the Sox turning to anyone other than Elias. Ironically, his first start in that role would come against the Seattle Mariners, the team that dealt him to the Red Sox last December.