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Rodriguez dominates in return to rotation

Giants right-hander throws 7 scoreless frames after latest callup
@mi_guardado
August 16, 2019

PHOENIX -- After spending the last few months shuttling between Triple-A and the Majors, Dereck Rodríguez might finally be here to stay. Rodriguez excelled in his return to the Giants’ rotation, tossing seven shutout innings to lead his club to a 7-0 win over the D-backs in Thursday night’s series

PHOENIX -- After spending the last few months shuttling between Triple-A and the Majors, Dereck Rodríguez might finally be here to stay.

Rodriguez excelled in his return to the Giants’ rotation, tossing seven shutout innings to lead his club to a 7-0 win over the D-backs in Thursday night’s series opener at Chase Field.

“He had a very determined look on him,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I know it’s been an up-and-down year for him, especially going back and forth, but he showed tonight what he can do. We needed it. We’ve had some struggles there in the rotation, so that was a real shot in the arm for us.”

Box score

Evan Longoria went 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs, while Austin Slater reached base five times and scored two runs to back Rodriguez, who earned his first Major League win since July 15.

Sam Coonrod and Fernando Abad, who was summoned to pitch the ninth in his first Major League appearance since 2017, each worked a scoreless inning to complete the shutout, pulling the Giants (61-61) within 3 1/2 games of the second National League Wild Card spot.

“Today I just wanted to attack and go after them,” Rodriguez said. “I know we’re close to them in the Wild Card, and I know we’ve got the playoff atmosphere. I felt good today, and it was a lot of fun.”

Rodriguez’s gem comes at a critical time for the Giants, who are in dire need of help at the back end of their rotation after watching young starters like Tyler Beede (5.77 ERA), Shaun Anderson (5.33 ERA) and Conner Menez (7.11 ERA) falter in recent weeks. With Anderson on the injured list with a blister on his right middle finger and Menez back in Sacramento, Bochy acknowledged before the game that Rodriguez had an opportunity to make a case for sticking in the rotation.

The 27-year-old right-hander didn’t disappoint, retiring the first 11 batters he faced before giving up a two-out single to Eduardo Escobar in the fourth. He yielded only two more hits -- both singles -- and did not allow a runner to advance into scoring position before departing after throwing 95 pitches. It was the best performance of the season for Rodriguez, who has endured a frustrating sophomore season with the Giants.

Rodriguez burst onto the scene after logging a 2.81 ERA over 118 1/3 innings as a rookie last year, and he appeared poised to continue to build off that success after making the Opening Day rotation out of Spring Training. But he showed signs of regression in the first half, prompting the Giants to demote him to Triple-A Sacramento after he posted a 5.05 ERA over his first eight starts of the season.

Rodriguez has been up and down since then, making occasional spot starts in fleeting stints with San Francisco. He struggled in his most recent Major League start on Aug. 1, allowing seven runs (four earned) over three innings against the Phillies. Rodriguez was sent back to Sacramento the next day, though he rebounded by throwing seven innings of two-run ball for the River Cats on Aug. 7.

“I tried to get back to what I know how to do, and that’s throw strikes,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve noticed when I throw strikes I’m a different pitcher out there, compared to when I throw a lot of balls. That was just my main focus, just attacking the hitters, and the rest played itself [out].”

Rodriguez isn’t dwelling on his missteps and is instead looking forward to helping the Giants as they continue their playoff push down the stretch.

“I’m not the first or the last to have a season like this,” Rodriguez said. “You learn from it, move on and don’t let it happen again.”

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.