Wright's night a four-gone conclusion
Lefty's fortunes change quickly in head-turning third inning
BOSTON -- On Sunday at a living, breathing Fenway Park, Boston's 315th straight sellout crowd came to push Daisuke Matsuzaka to victory and convince Chase Wright to cave under the park's heavy, weighted brick.
Like so many storylines in the Red Sox-Yankees saga, things didn't quite work out that way. Matsuzaka struggled with his command early and Wright found himself with a comfortable 3-0 advantage by the bottom of the third inning.
That's when the left-handed Texan, who allowed one home run in 119 2/3 innings at Class A Tampa last season, hung an 84-mph slider to Manny Ramirez, who hammered the offering high above the Green Monster in left-center.
3-1, Yankees. Wright kept his chin up. The hanger was a mistake, and Ramirez doesn't miss mistakes. Wright dug in and readied for the next batter, J.D. Drew.
Drew hit a 1-2 slider into the seats in right-center. The next batter, Mike Lowell, golfed a low and inside changeup over the Green Monster. Jason Varitek then added his own Monster shot, not long after Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez concluded a mound conference with Wright by patting him with his glove.
"It was a whirlwind out there," Wright said.
With that, Wright became a line in a record book, the second pitcher in history to surrender four consecutive home runs in an inning. The first was the Los Angeles Angels' Paul Foytack, in 1963.
The difference: Foytack was a 10-year Major League veteran when Detroit traded him to Los Angeles that season and Wright was making his second career Major League start on Sunday. Wright is a 24-year-old in an organization that belongs to veterans, and, with marquee starters such as Chien-Ming Wang and Mike Mussina soon to return, a likely candidate to be jettisoned from the rotation for the Minor Leagues in the near future.
How does a young pitcher recover from such an episode?
"Probably come out and pitch the next time," Yankees center fielder Johnny Damon said. "Chase Wright has good stuff. And he got the ball up."
"It happened quickly," said manager Joe Torre. "It's just another piece of experience for that kid. It has nothing to do with what he's going to be or what's going to happen to him in the future."
Obscured by the rarity of Wright's record is that few managers have had opportunities to leave pitchers in for three consecutive home runs, much less four.
"We've been using our bullpen quite a bit," Torre said. "At what point do you want to get somebody up? After he throws the first one, the second one, the third one?"
After the game, Wright was thoughtful about his struggles. On a cool but pleasant night, he felt "great." In front of 36,905 fans -- at least until the third inning -- he was "calm."
"I was missing spots," said Wright, who had a 1.88 ERA as the Florida State League Pitcher of the Year in 2006. "But I tell ya, that's what happens when you miss spots. Leave pitches up in the zone ... those guys are going to do that to you."
Beaten by one of baseball's hottest teams in one of his lesser efforts, Wright left with the Yankees for the team bus and the airport. Few, not least of all Fenway's bleacher denizens, were surprised by the result with a rookie making his second career start at Fenway. Yet few could have expected what they saw in the third inning on Sunday night.
"It's baseball," Torre said. "It's liable to happen and it's just part of what you have to deal with. Nothing should surprise you in this game. Especially when you play this club."
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.