Mike Wright was going to seize this moment. He knew it. His manager hinted at it. His teammates could feel it.
Even the critics — myself included — had the sense that this proud, ultra-competitive guy was going to accept the rare baseball mulligan and do something with it.
Oh, and boy did Wright do something with it.
He shut down the World Champion Kansas City Royals on Monday night at Camden Yards, allowing just one unearned run in seven superb innings. He gave up five hits, walked two and struck out four to pick up his third win of the season and first since May 14.
“It didn’t matter what team was in the box today,” Wright said. “I was going to try to do well. That’s my feeling every day, but today in particular.”
What a week it was for Wright. On Wednesday, he gave up four homers and six runs to Boston, pushing his season ERA to 5.88. On Thursday, he was demoted to Triple-A Norfolk. On Friday, he was recalled when Darren O’Day went on the disabled list. And on Monday, he was really, really good.
“He came out here with a vengeance,” said shortstop Manny Machado about Wright. “Nobody wants to get sent down. He had something to prove, that he wanted to be up here and wanted to stay here. The next start, he has to come out and do the same thing. We know what he’s capable of. He just needs to bring it out every day, every pitch, every outing. He knows what he needs to do. He’s just got to go out there and do it.”
Wright was told about the vengeance line. He quickly agreed.
“Yeah, absolutely. When you get sent down and recalled the next day, I mean you’ve got to come out and perform,” Wright said. “So I definitely had a little more focus and like (Machado) said, a vengeance.”
The difference was fairly simple. Wright concentrated on throwing strikes, keeping the ball down and letting his defense do the work. The Royals are a smart, aggressive offense that swings at good pitches. They attacked and so did Wright – and Wright won.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter didn’t act surprised. He said pre-game that sometimes a player needs a second chance. And Wright received one because of the O’Day injury.
“He got a do-over. Not many people do,” Showalter said. “I think he would have eventually gotten one anyway, but it came a little faster. It’s kind of like we got the benefits.”
Plenty of people have questioned whether Wright, despite his big arm, can be a consistent starter in the majors. I, for one, said I wanted to see what he could do as a short-inning reliever. But Wright believes he’s a starter. And then he went out and showed why Monday night.
It was great performance in a trying week, and one in which Wright deserves plenty of credit.