PAWTUCKET — This knuckleballer had the Wright stuff on Sunday afternoon.
Steven Wright impressed a large Father’s Day crowd at McCoy Stadium with his finest start of the year. Throwing a season-high eight innings -- the Pawtucket Red Sox starter to do so this year -- Wright struck out seven batters and gave up just five hits, a run, and no walks to help the PawSox notch a 5-3 triumph over the Buffalo Bisons.
Wright, who was 0-3 with a 6.77 ERA in his last six starts, did a turn for the better with his splendid outing, which saw him master his knuckleball and secondary pitches from start to finish (throwing 69 of his 97 pitches for strikes) and retire 13 straight batters at one point before surrendering the Bisons’ run in the eighth.
Wright (3-4) was also backed by a nice helping hand from the errorless defense played behind him -- especially his own -- as he snagged three hot shots belted up the middle to aid his cause.
Second baseman Brock Holt made a stellar play on a grounder up the middle by Ricardo Nanita to end the top of the fourth by backhanding the hard-hit shot and making an off-balanced, one-hop throw to first baseman Brandon Snyder at first base to nab Nanita by a half step, and two innings later, third baseman Jonathan Diaz turned in a nice play on a slow roller by Mike McCoy for the final out of the sixth.
Alex Hassan armed Wright and the PawSox a quick 2-0 lead in the home half of the first inning with a two-out, two-run double that hugged the left-field line and one-hopped the fence. That knocked in Diaz, who smacked a base hit up the middle and past the dive of shortstop Ryan Goins, and Mitch Maier, who followed with a walk.
In the third, the PawSox tacked on their other three runs off Buffalo starter Chad Jenkins, who exited the game after the inning, as leadoff singles by Diaz and Maier was followed by a three-run homer by Brandon Snyder, who deposited a 2-1 pitch into the berm in left for his 10th homer of the season.
Wright, meanwhile, was cruising until the eighth, when the leadoff batter, Moises Sierra, legged out an infield hit in the hole that was almost turned into a great play by shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
Three pitches later to the next batter, former Pawtucket infielder Andy LaRoche, Wright uncorked a wild pitch, and with one out, Nanita ended Wright’s shutout bid with a sharp ground single up the middle.
Wright eventually retired the next two batters he faced before giving way to Chris Martin in the ninth. Martin gave the PawSox some anxious moments, allowing a two-run homer into the berm in left to former PawSox slugger Mauro Gomez that cut the Bisons’ deficit in half, but that was all the damage the Bisons could muster.
Less than 24 hours after getting one-hit in a 2-1 defeat to the Bisons, the PawSox banged out 10 hits, with two each coming off the bats of Diaz and catcher Dan Butler.
Reliever Pedro Beato became the latest PawSox player to earn a promotion to Boston. He was added to the 40-man roster, and he left Pawtucket early Sunday morning and flew to Baltimore to join the Red Sox, who he briefly pitched for last season and went 1-0 with a 4.70 ERA in four appearances (7 2/3 innings).
Beato, who pitched from the Mets in parts of the 2011 and ’12 season before he was dealt to the Red Sox last Aug. 16 for backup catcher Kelly Shoppach, went 4-1 with two saves, 29 strikeouts, and a 1.89 ERA in 19 games (33 1/3 innings) this year with the PawSox.
To make room for Beato, another righthander, Rubby De La Rosa, was sent back down to Pawtucket, just two days after he was called up to add depth to Boston’s bullpen, only to not appear in a game against the Orioles.
De La Rosa, who was 0-1 with 38 strikeouts and a 3.29 ERA in 11 starts (only covering 38 1/3 innings) with the PawSox, will return to the rotation and is expected to make his scheduled start against the Columbus Clippers tonight.
EXTRA BASES: Reliever Jose De La Torre was placed on the temporary inactive list on Saturday (retroactive to June 13), and another righty, Brock Huntzinger, was promoted from Double-A Portland to replace him in the bullpen. … Huntzinger, who was 3-0 with a 2.32 ERA and 13 saves in 25 games with the Sea Dogs, delivered a 1-2-3 inning in his PawSox debut last night against the Bisons. … Gomez’s homer was his International League-leading 18th. ... Three of the Bisons’ eight hits in the game did not leave the infield. ... It was a tough day at the plate for the top two prospects in the PawSox’s lineup, outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and Bogaerts. They teamed up to go 0-for-7 with two strikeouts. … LaRoche made two nice running catches on pop fouls near the stands along the third-base line. … Sunday’s win was the third in the four-game series over the second-place Bisons, allowing the first-place PawSox to extend their I.L. North lead over them to five games. … The PawSox will now head to Ohio for their four-game series with the Clippers and another four-game set with the Toledo Mud Hens. They will return home on Tuesday, June 25, to kick off a homestand that will start with another four games against the Mud Hens.
Follow Eric Benevides on Twitter @EricBen24