MIAMI (AP) – Steven Wright is making the most of his second chance to settle into the Boston Red Sox’s rotation.
The knuckleballer will try to build on the two best starts of his career in Tuesday night’s opener of a two-game road series with the Miami Marlins.
Wright made four starts from May 17-June 4, but a 1-2 record and 3.91 ERA weren’t good enough to stick in Boston’s rotation. He jumped back into the mix in late July after two weeks in the bullpen and a stint in the minors.
After two rough outings in his return from Triple-A Pawtucket, Wright (5-4, 4.12 ERA) has set career highs in innings pitched and strikeouts in consecutive starts. He held the White Sox to two runs over seven innings in an 8-2 win on July 30, then limited the Yankees to a run and four hits while striking out nine in eight innings of Wednesday’s 2-1 victory in New York.
“Given this lineup in this ballpark,” manager John Farrell said of Wright’s win over the Yankees, “he was outstanding from start to finish.”
That was Boston’s only victory in the Bronx, but it took two of three in Detroit over the weekend while totaling 20 runs. Jackie Bradley Jr., who has spent much of the season shuffling between Triple-A and the majors, drove in five of those in Sunday’s 7-2 win – more than doubling his season total.
Bradley also made an over-the-shoulder basket catch in center field.
“Today is a flash of what Jackie is capable of doing,” Farrell said. “When he swings the bat like that, he has the potential to be an outstanding player.”
Bradley, though, might not see much more time in the middle of Boston’s outfield starting Tuesday. Mookie Betts is due back from a stint on the seven-day disabled list due to a concussion, and he’s expected to reclaim his spot in center while Bradley and Rusney Castillo split time in right.
Farrell also believes Hanley Ramirez (left foot) and Pablo Sandoval (left forearm) will return after sitting out Sunday, though closer Koji Uehara is out for the season after being hit in the right wrist by a line drive Friday. Jean Machi will likely close in Uehara’s absence.
Boston (50-62) will try to keep its hot hitting going against Justin Nicolino (1-1, 4.09), who made the first two starts of his career in late June and has posted a 4.91 ERA in seven outings since returning to Triple-A New Orleans. Now he’ll replace injured ace Jose Fernandez, whose season is in jeopardy due to a right biceps strain.
Nicolino earned a win in his June 20 debut, limiting Cincinnati to four hits over seven innings in a 5-0 victory. He was pounded for five runs in four innings in a 7-1 loss to the Dodgers six days later.
When comparing his second start to his first, Nicolino said, “I made more mistakes. You can’t do that up here.”
The Marlins (44-68) have one of baseball’s worst road records at 18-38, which included a pair of losses last month at Fenway Park. Miami snapped a six-game overall skid on Sunday, though, avoiding a four-game sweep in Atlanta with a 4-1 win.
The Red Sox – 8-4 against the NL – have won seven straight in this series, a streak that started by taking the final two of three at Marlins Park in 2012.
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