Lavarnway finds redemption following wild first
After tying big league mark with four passed balls, delivers clutch two-run double
HOUSTON -- Red Sox right-hander Steven Wright, making his first Major League start, threw his knuckleball well enough Tuesday night that the Houston Astros had trouble hitting it. Unfortunately, catcher Ryan Lavarnway had trouble catching it.
Lavarnway tied a Major League record by allowing four passed balls in the first inning that led to three Houston runs, but Boston rallied to win, 15-10.
"That's the most I've ever seen it move," said Lavarnway, who had caught Wright eight times before. "I don't know what it was. He's been brilliant the last two times out. Sometimes it just goes the other way."
Lavarnway's four passed balls in an inning tied the mark first set by Ray Katt of the New York Giants in 1954, catching knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm, and tied by Gino Petralli of the Texas Rangers in 1987 catching Charlie Hough, another knuckleballer.
"You can never get frustrated," Lavarnway said. "It's a real hard thing to do. You've got to grind it out."
Lavarnway responded by delivering a key two-out double in the fifth inning that put the Red Sox ahead to stay, 8-7.
Wright admitted he felt sorry for Lavarnway in that first inning.
"It was moving a lot," Wright said. "It's hard to contain sometimes, and today I wasn't able to make the adjustment quick enough to keep it in the strike zone."
Manager John Farrell thought pitching indoors with the roof closed at Minute Maid Park made it more difficult for Wright.
"It's the first time he's thrown the knuckleball in a dome," Farrell said. "There's going to be extra movement to it. It's something he's not familiar with to make any slight adjustment -- he and Lavarnway both."
"It definitely was different," Wright said of pitching indoors. "The ball was moving a lot more than I anticipated. It's what happens with the knuckleball sometimes."
Wright didn't help himself either, giving up two walks, hitting a batter and throwing a wild pitch. The Astros managed only one hit in the inning, a single by Jason Castro.
Farrell pulled Wright after one inning, replacing him with Brandon Workman.
Lavarnway was asked if he thought that first inning would never end.
"It ended," he said. "They scored three runs and we came back and kicked their butt."
Gene Duffey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.