BOSTON — Eduardo Rodriguez showed some serious cojones.
While Rodriguez has had better performances than the one he provided Saturday night at Fenway Park, the 22-year-old hasn?t had a more important showing to date. Rodriguez stepped up when his team needed him most and delivered a solid outing as the Red Sox defeated the New York Yankees 5-3.
?Settings he?s not been in, we continue to learn a lot about him,? Red Sox manager John Farrell said after the win, which cut Boston’s deficit in the American League East to 5 1/2 games with one game left before the Major League Baseball All-Star break. ?Everyone in our clubhouse knows the importance of (Saturday?s game), this stage. He continues to grow each time he walks to the mound.?
Rodriguez?s ninth major league start marked his first against the Yankees. The young left-hander introduced himself to the rivalry by tossing 6 1/3 innings in which he allowed two runs on five hits while striking out two and walking one. Alex Rodriguez opened the scoring with a solo home run in the first inning and Jacoby Ellsbury added a solo homer in the sixth that cut Boston?s lead to 3-2 at the time, but Rodriguez never unraveled. Instead, he stayed locked in and worked through his mistakes.
?He went out and pitched as he?s done for a majority of his starts,? Farrell said. ?He didn?t try to change anything. He clearly channeled the adrenaline.
?There was additional adrenaline here (Saturday). He channeled it in a way that he stayed in his delivery commanding the baseball. On a tough night with a loss to (Clay Buchholz on Friday), he went out and did his job.?
Rodriguez?s effort was needed. The Red Sox not only had their season-long, four-game winning streak snapped in Friday night?s series opener. They also lost their most reliable starter, Clay Buchholz, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with a right elbow strain.
Obviously, it?ll still be difficult for the Red Sox to overcome the loss of Buchholz for an unspecified amount of time. But Rodriguez helped put Boston back into the win column at a point when it was reasonable to wonder whether the team?s recent resurgence was nothing more than a mirage. And he did so against the Red Sox?s biggest rival in a nationally televised game.
?You just watch a very good athlete go out and compete. He?s got tremendous composure, so I would suspect there?s an added adrenaline,? Farrell said. ?That?s common in these series. But because he?s such a good athlete, he?s able to stay in that delivery.?
At 22 years, 95 days, Rodriguez became the youngest Red Sox starter to earn a win against the Yankees since Ken Brett (21 years, 283 days) defeated the Bronx Bombers on June 28, 1970. Rodriguez also allowed two earned runs or fewer for the third consecutive start and for the seventh time in nine starts, offering a reason for optimism despite Buchholz landing on the shelf.
The Red Sox promoted another young lefty, Brian Johnson, to take Buchholz?s spot on the active roster. If he pitches with half the intestinal fortitude Rodriguez showed Saturday, Boston will be in business.
Rodriguez was presented with a challenge. He tackled it head-on.
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images