Arguably the biggest of the Boston Red Sox’s many issues this young season has been starting pitching.
Night after night Sox starters were getting shelled, and entering Friday, Boston was the only team in the big leagues not to have a single starter with a winning decision this season.
But in a 6-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on Friday, Eduardo Rodriguez was the one to finally buck the trend — if just for one night. The southpaw allowed two runs on three hits with no walks and eight strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings. The two runs he allowed were on a Dwight Smith homer that started with a Trey Mancini double that Mookie Betts should’ve tracked down, then Xander Bogaerts not being able to handle a pickoff throw to second that might’ve gotten Mancini and ended the inning.
When Sox manager Alex Cora went out to get Rodriguez in the seventh inning, he chatted on the mound with the southpaw for a little longer than usual. After the game, Cora revealed what he told E-Rod.
“I told him in Spanish, ‘don’t let one pitch mess up your night,'” Cora said, alluding to the Smith homer, as seen on NESN’s postgame coverage. “It was actually a good pitch and Smith got to it. Sometimes you have a great night like that and one pitch messes up the whole thing, but nah (not tonight). We needed him to go deep in the game, he did an outstanding job and I just let him know that.
“There was conviction, great tempo, execution,” Cora said of Rodriguez’s outing. “We’ve been needing a start like this for two weeks, and he went out there and did an outstanding job.”
While Rodriguez’s stuff always has been encouraging, when things are bad for him they tend to be really bad. Conversely, the deeper he goes into games, the better. Over his career, Rodriguez is 25-4 with a 2.29 ERA when he tosses at least six innings. In Friday’s outing, he only needed 93 pitches, 62 of which landed for strikes.
It’s up to the rest of the rotation now to follow Rodriguez’s lead. Entering the season the starters were among the areas of least concern and considered to be one of the best groups of five in the league. That obviously hasn’t been the case in reality, but it’s a long season, and there’s quite a bit of time to right the ship.
Here are some other notes from Friday’s Red Sox-Orioles game:
— Home run hitting has eluded Andrew Benintendi for a while now, but he went deep Friday.
For the first time since Aug. 31, 2018, the Sox left fielder went yard. With the bases empty in the third inning, Orioles starter David Hess left a 1-0 changeup over the heart of the plate, and Benintendi ripped it into the Monster Seats an estimated 390 feet.
— Jackie Bradley Jr. made a game-saving play in the top of the eighth.
With a runner on first, two down and Brandon Workman trying to preserve a two-run lead, Joey Rickard ripped a ball to deep center. It certainly would have scored the runner from first, but Bradley leapt up the wall in center field and made the catch to end the inning.
So is it one of the top grabs of the 28-year-old’s career?
“Nah,” Bradley said. “It’s just an alright play.”
— The only pitcher that didn’t have a great night was Tyler Thornburg.
The right-hander walked Mancini to lead off the ninth inning, then surrendered a homer to Renato Nunez that allowed the O’s to pull within a pair. Thornburg got the next hitter to pop out, but unwilling to take any chances, Cora took out Thornburg and replaced him with Ryan Brasier, who got the next two hitters out.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images