CHICAGO -- Red Sox manager Alex Cora wasn't exactly certain what he would get out of Eduardo Rodriguez on Saturday night. It didn't take long for Rodriguez to give Cora his answer.
In his first Major League start since July 14, Rodriguez struck out a season-high 12 hitters and began his outing with four perfect innings against the White Sox en route to a 6-1 victory at Guaranteed Rate Field. Boston maintained its 7 1/2-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East.
"There was a quiet confidence from him the last month," Cora said. "First of all, [he knew] that he was going to contribute, and it felt like he knew probably that the rest was going to help him and that he was going to be this guy."
Red Sox starters posted a 7.62 ERA in the seven games leading up to Saturday's win and a 4.46 ERA in August, but president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said before the game that Rodriguez's return, along with left-handers Chris Sale and David Price getting closer to returning from injuries, would go a long way toward alleviating Boston's recent pitching woes, which is part of the reason why the team stood pat at Friday's deadline to acquire players who could be eligible for postseason play.
"I know there's a lot of teams that made trades yesterday," Cora said. "Let's put it this way, [Rodriguez's return] was a trade for us. We'll take that one."
Rodriguez came within one strikeout of his career high of 13, which came against the Rays on Sept. 25, 2016, and finished Saturday's impressive start by allowing one run on three hits while yielding only one walk. He threw 60 of his 90 pitches for strikes.
Asked what was working for him on Saturday night, Rodriguez replied, "I would say everything. … I was feeling great with all my pitches."
Rodriguez, who was on the disabled list with a right ankle sprain until his activation on Saturday, struck out the first three hitters he faced and 10 of his first 12. He allowed his first hit in the fifth inning, when Matt Davidson dropped a bloop single over the glove of second baseman Ian Kinsler. He departed after allowing an RBI double to Nicky Delmonico.
Cora couldn't have asked more in the left-hander's return performance: "He was in control. I was sitting there and I was enjoying that one. From pitch one to the last pitch, he was outstanding."
Eduardo Nunez and Jackie Bradley Jr. staked Rodriguez to a 2-0 lead with solo home runs in the fifth inning. After the White Sox got to within a run, the Red Sox tacked on three more runs in the seventh on a throwing error by Chicago starter Carlos Rodon and RBI singles from Steve Pearce and J.D. Martinez. Kinsler padded the lead in the eighth inning with Boston's third solo shot of the night, his first homer since he was traded to the Red Sox on July 30.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Ryan Brasier preserved the lead in the seventh inning when he pitched out of trouble after giving up back-to-back singles to Davidson and Yoan Moncada. After a groundout gave the White Sox runners on second and third with just one out, Brasier struck out Omar Narvaez and Yolmer Sanchez to escape the jam. Brasier also struck out Avisail Garcia an inning earlier with the tying run on second base after the White Sox had gotten to within a run.
"Big spot right there," Cora said. "The fact he went four outs for us was very important."
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Nunez's leadoff homer in the fifth was originally ruled to be in play after it bounced off the railing at the top of the wall in left field. Nunez ended up at second base, but the Red Sox challenged, and after a quick review, Nunez completed his trip around the bases to open the scoring.
After going 3-0 with two no-decisions as a starter in August, Christopher Johnson (4-3, 4.02 ERA) will pitch Sunday's series finale against the White Sox. Johnson is looking for his first win since Aug. 17 and will face James Shields (5-15, 4.54), with first pitch scheduled for 2:10 p.m. ET.