Alex Cora and the Boston Red Sox organization were able to breathe a sigh of relief Thursday after left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez took the mound in his first game after missing the 2020 campaign.
Rodriguez, coupled with some timely hits and a strong bullpen performance, led the Red Sox to their fourth straight win with a 7-2 verdict over the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
“I think today’s story is not about hitting or defense, it’s about Eduardo. For him to compete out there and give us five strong innings, that was very gratifying for the organization, for each individual here,” Cora said on a postgame video conference. “For him to perform that way is a testament to where he’s at right now in his career, who he is as a person. I know it’s a big day for him. I’m happy everything went well.
“… What happened today is because of him. He put in the work. He put himself in this situation. And it was very gratifying. We’re very happy for him.”
Rodriguez went five innings and allowed three earned runs on four hits.
His first inning featured a two-run homer to Ryan Mountcastle before he stranded two runners on base. Three of his four hits allowed came in the opening inning before Rodriguez settled down and recorded seven strikeouts.
He threw 79 pitches with 56 going for strikes.
“He found his rhythm later on. I know probably early on he was a bit nervous,” Cora said. “He found his rhythm, his cutter backdoor, his change up was good. It still feels like his sinker wasn’t where it usually is, but overall it was about competing, showing his teammates how good he is, and he did.”
Here are some other notes from Red Sox-Orioles:
— The Red Sox, who scored two runs in the first, sixth and seventh innings, compiled 12 hits as a team with only two batters not recording a hit.
Boston had four players –Christian Vazquez (3-for-5), Alex Verdugo (2-for-5), J.D. Martinez (2-for-5), Rafael Devers (2-for-3) — record multiple hits. Kike Hernandez, Martin Gonzalez and Franchy Cordero each had one hit, though, all came with RBIs.
Cora, though, picked a different player as the one who had the “at-bat of the night.” And ironically, it was one of the two who didn’t record an official hit.
“We hit homers, we hit doubles, we hit the ball hard. The at-bat of the night was Christian Arroyo putting the ball in play on an 0-2 count,” Cora said. “… That was the at-bat of the night. He did everything right, put us in a good spot and then we kept adding on.”
Arroyo slapped an RBI hit to score Devers in the sixth inning. Cordero followed it up with an RBI single to left field later in the inning before Boston added a pair in the seventh to extend its lead.
— The Red Sox bullpen made sure to not let Rodriguez’s performance go to waste by shutting down the Orioles and allowing just one hit combine in four innings.
Garrett Whitlock put together another impressive performance as he threw two hitless innings with three strikeouts. Fifteen of Whitlock’s 20 pitches went for strikes.
“We needed him and he did an outstanding job,” Cora said.
Matt Barnes completely dominated the ninth inning for the save. He threw 10 straight strikes (11 strikes in 12 total pitches) with three strikeouts.
“That was amazing, right?,” Cora said. “Throwing a lot of strikes. Velocity. I do believe this is his best fast ball at least of the last three years. We’re very happy with him. He has matured a lot. He’s going to be a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish.”
— Hernandez hit his first home run in a Red Sox uniform in the eighth inning after Devers opened up the scoring with a two-run, 452-foot blast in the first inning.
— The 4-3 Red Sox are above .500 for the first time this season and will play the Orioles on Saturday night.