Before Wednesday's attempt at solving Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright, Orioles assistant hitting coach Mark Quinn set up a pitching machine in the bowels of Fenway Park that simulated the erratic flight of a knuckleball.
The three wheels of the machine could be synchronized to eject a baseball that didn't spin at all. It wasn't conventional, but given how Wright carved the Orioles up two weeks ago, it was worth a try.
The end result was the same. The Red Sox beat the Orioles, 6-4, on Wednesday, after Wright kept the Orioles off-balance into the eighth inning.
"It's difficult," said designated hitter Mark Trumbo, who had a team-high two hits. "It's more approach than technique, I guess. And there's some luck involved, too. Some of those pitches are moving quite a bit, so you just hope to get one that maybe doesn't move quite as much and catches more plate."
On May 30, Wright held the Orioles to four hits and a pair of runs in a complete-game victory at Camden Yards. He was nearly as good again Wednesday. The Orioles were scoreless until center fielder Adam Jones connected with a knuckler that landed on top of the Green Monster for a two-run home run in the seventh inning. It was Jones' 12th of the season.
"He's good," manager Buck Showalter said of Wright, whose 2.22 ERA ranks second in the American League. "He's been good for a while. They're lucky to have him, really a weapon. … It's a heck of a weapon."
Jones also had a two-hit night, combining with Trumbo to account for the bulk of the Orioles' six knocks off Wright. Once Wright left, the Orioles pushed across two runs on a double by catcher Matt Wieters and a single by second baseman Jonathan Schoop in the eighth.
Short night for Gausman: Right-hander Kevin Gausman has been good of late, entering the game with a 3.45 ERA and two consecutive quality starts. But he was looking for a change Wednesday. So for the first time this season, Gausman hiked his pants high to show some sock in an effort to possibly bring about his first win of the season.
He retired the side in the first inning on nine pitches, but that was as good as it got for him. Gausman walked first baseman Hanley Ramirez with one out in the second, and Ramirez came around to score on a double by third baseman Travis Shaw that made it 1-0 Boston.
Gausman stranded two in the second inning, but the Red Sox wouldn't rue that. The first four batters in the third inning singled, and two scored, before Ramirez hit a three-run home run over the Green Monster in left field to spoil Gausman's night.
Gausman didn't return to the mound after that five-run third inning, leaving having allowed six runs on seven hits and two walks with three strikeouts. His ERA jumped from 3.45 to 4.14. The three-inning start was his shortest of 2016.
"I think just falling apart, not being able to throw my secondary pitches for strikes," Gausman said of what went wrong. "They came out looking for a fastball, and I thought today was one of the best command days I had with my fastball. But when you have to rely on that you are just kind of putting yourself in bad situations. It's frustrating. I'm kind of in a little funk right now."
Despaigne debuts: Gausman's short outing provided occasion for the Orioles to give a debut to Odrisamer Despaigne, who joined the club from Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday in place of Vance Worley.
Despaigne scattered three hits and walked two in 2 2/3 innings before giving way to left-hander Brian Duensing, who got designated hitter David Ortiz to fly out to the warning track in right field to end the sixth inning. Despaigne and Duensing combined for four innings of scoreless relief before Dylan Bundy pitched a scoreless eighth.
"I was impressed with our guys out of the 'pen," Showalter said. "Dylan, every time you give him three to five days, he's pretty crisp. It bodes well for the future. Despaigne got there, and he'll throw the kitchen sink at you, and get some outs. "