It was the kind of outing that might have left Steven Wright in a panic last season.
Wright gave up four runs on eight hits and three walks in five innings of an 8-5 loss to the visiting Erie SeaWolves.
But given the success Wright has had this season — his second with the knuckler he now throws up to 80 percent of the time — Wednesday’s outing was simply a blip on the radar screen among his 14 mostly strong starts.
“Steven had just a little bit of trouble with his command today compared to his previous outings,” Aeros manager Chris Tremie said. “But he still threw the ball pretty well.”
Wright struck out five of the first seven batters he faced and cruised through three innings before finding trouble in the fourth inning.
The Aeros led 2-0 after a two-run homer by Nick Weglarz off of former teammate Kelvin De La Cruz.
The SeaWolves tied the score in the fourth when Tony Plagman got a knuckleball that stayed up in the strike zone and blasted a two-run homer.
Wright continued to struggle controlling his knuckleball and allowed another run in the fifth inning. With two outs, Nick Castellanos and Jordan Lennerton singled and Rawley Bishop and Plagman walked to give the SeaWolves the lead.
“Some days the knuckleball moves more than others,” said Wright, who struck out six and ranks second in the Eastern League with a 1.98 ERA. “But for the most part, I’ve been able to keep it in the zone.
“When I get in trouble, I fall behind and have to throw fastballs. That’s what’s been hurting me and what happened today. I fell behind some of those guys, had to come back with a fastball and they were able to put a good swing on it.”
Wright limited the damage by getting Brandon Douglas to fly out to center field to end the inning. In the sixth, Corey Jones led off with a double and Luis Sanz was hit by a pitch. A double steal put both runners in scoring position and Tremie went to his bullpen.
With 7-foot-1 right-hander Loek van Mil on in relief for Wright, the situation quickly went from bad to worse. An RBI-single, run-scoring sacrifice bunt and a three-run home run by Lennerton resulted in a five-run inning that put the game away.
The Aeros cut the deficit to 8-5 in the seventh inning on first baseman Chun Chen’s sacrifice fly that scored shortstop Juan Diaz. But the Aeros’ momentum was halted when Weglarz was ejected for arguing with home plate umpire Tom Honec over a called third strike.
De La Cruz (5-7, 4.20 ERA), whom the Indians traded in the offseason to the Texas Rangers and was later picked up by the Detroit Tigers, earned the win despite allowing four runs on seven hits and four walks in five innings. Closer Bruce Rondon made quick work of the bottom of Aeros’ lineup in the ninth inning to pick up his fourth save.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Aeros blog at https://ohio.com/aeros. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.