E-Rod so good, he won't leave the mound

Lefty pushes to go back out after 6 innings and 83 pitches; Cora: 'I respect that'

August 15th, 2021

BOSTON -- If Saturday’s long-awaited debut by Chris Sale was a second Opening Day of sorts for the Red Sox, Sunday was a glimpse at how Boston’s rotation suddenly looks a lot more formidable with pitchers moving into more realistic slots.

, for example, has the chance to be a big difference-maker as the No. 2 starter now that he no longer has the burden of anchoring the staff.

The lefty has had an inconsistent season, but he has been sharp of late. That continued with his six strong innings Sunday to lead his Red Sox to a 6-2 victory over the Orioles that completed a three-game sweep at Fenway Park. Combined with the Rays' loss to the Twins, the win moved Boston three games back of Tampa Bay in the American League East.

• Box score

Rodriguez allowed only three hits and one unearned run, walking three and striking out six.

“Myself, I’m feeling really good the way I’ve been pitching, I would say, in the second half,” Rodriguez said. “I battled a lot through the first half, and I finally figured out everything with my mechanics and everything.”

Rodriguez was pulled after 83 pitches and didn’t look thrilled about it. But that is likely a good sign -- that he is feeling great about the way he is throwing and wants to pitch as deep into his starts as possible.

“I just said [in the dugout], ‘I want to keep pitching, I want to keep pitching, I want to keep going out there.’ Like I say, I like to be competitive all the time no matter how many pitches I have,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to go out there, but [manager Alex Cora] told me, ‘No, because we have a day off and those guys have to work, too.’ That’s what the conversation was like.”

From Cora’s perspective, the conversation was what it should have been.

“Yeah. 100 percent,” Cora said. “He wanted to go out there. I was like, ‘No, you’re not going out there.’ I respect that. He wants to be competing, but where we were bullpen-wise, knowing what’s coming, we needed some guys to go out there and touch the rubber.”

Rodriguez has a 1.10 ERA (two earned runs in 16 1/3 innings) in his last three starts.

The Sox also have three good options in the 3-4-5 spots in All-Star Nathan Eovaldi, No. 6 prospect Tanner Houck and talented righty Nick Pivetta. Garrett Richards and Martín Pérez, rotation mainstays until this week, are now in the bullpen.

“We feel like we have a complete pitching staff, and also with Garrett and Martín throwing the ball out of the bullpen, we’re going to count on them in certain situations,” said Cora. “We believe every five days, we’re going to have a good guy on the mound, and also in the bullpen, we’re going to be set up to use different guys. We’re feeling better about our pitching staff.”

In the last nine games, Boston’s rotation has compiled a 2.39 ERA with 61 strikeouts and only 11 walks in 49 innings.

“I’m feeling really good about the rotation,” Rodriguez said. “We have our ace back in Chris Sale. You guys know that, everybody knows that. We’re feeling really good the way we’re going as a team starting, and it’s getting better and better and will get better.”

The offense, which feasted on Baltimore pitching all weekend, got off to another fast start. J.D. Martinez launched a three-run shot in the first, No. 23 on the season. The Sox added three more in the sixth.

Playing his second game for the Sox, trade acquisition Kyle Schwarber smacked doubles in his last two at-bats.

Just like Sale makes the rotation deeper, Schwarber does the same for the lineup.

“To get the first hit out of the way, the first two, now I just kind of get to relax now and it’s back to baseball,” Schwarber said. “I’m very excited to be here, and what an opportunity to have, and what a great group of guys to be around.”

Now it’s on to Yankee Stadium for a day-night doubleheader on Tuesday and another game on Wednesday as the 69-51 Red Sox – clicking better on both sides of the ball in recent days -- look to finish strong with 42 games left in their season.