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Surging E-Rod in driver's seat for playoff rotation

Right-hander peaking in September after being slowed by injury over summer
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

CINCINNATI -- Eduardo Rodriguez has gone full-speed ahead in his quest to win a spot in the postseason rotation, and Saturday's brilliant performance in a 5-0 victory over the Reds might have cemented his case.

The argument could be made that Saturday was the lefty's best start of the season. Over 7 2/3 innings, he allowed three hits, all singles, while walking two and striking out six.

Full Game Coverage

CINCINNATI -- Eduardo Rodriguez has gone full-speed ahead in his quest to win a spot in the postseason rotation, and Saturday's brilliant performance in a 5-0 victory over the Reds might have cemented his case.

The argument could be made that Saturday was the lefty's best start of the season. Over 7 2/3 innings, he allowed three hits, all singles, while walking two and striking out six.

Full Game Coverage

The 24-year-old appears to be coming of age at just the right time for the Red Sox.

"He maintained his stuff all the way through seven-plus innings, into the eighth inning tonight," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "His command of his overall pitches, his use of three pitches to both sides of the plate -- he's gotten to the point where he's using all three and not eliminating any one pitch to either left-handers or right-handers. It's good to see him seemingly take the next step in his maturation as a pitcher."

Before hurting his right knee on June 1 in Baltimore, Rodriguez seemed on the verge of a breakout season. But his momentum was halted by the injury, and it took him several weeks to find his groove.

Video: BOS@CIN: The Red Sox shut out the Reds in 5-0 victory

It has all come together in September. In his past four starts, Rodriguez is 2-1 with a 1.78 ERA.

"I'm sure the health is a big contributor to that," said Farrell. "But I think the evolving preparation for Eduardo, and that goes to his work with [pitching coach] Carl [Willis], the game-planning, the conversations with Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, his rotation mates, there's contributing factors to all this. But he's the one that's going out there, putting it together and executing on the mound. That was a quality outing there today."

With a magic number of five to clinch the American League East and a four-game lead with eight to play, Farrell will soon be solidifying plans for the AL Division Series against the Indians or Astros. Rodriguez has only helped his case.

"I've never done it before," Rodriguez said of starting a playoff game. "I did it in the Minor Leagues but never in the big leagues. That's going to be the best feeling in the world -- that's what everybody who's started a game in the playoffs has told me."

When September started, Rodriguez was probably fifth on the depth chart. But Porcello and Doug Fister have both had consistency issues of late, and Rodriguez is pouncing on his opportunity.

Video: BOS@CIN: Moreland begins a 3-6-3 double play

"He's throwing the ball well," Farrell said. "We haven't made any decisions on who's going to be throwing in what role, with the exception of David Price. With Eddie's performance, he is certainly helping us achieve the first goal [of winning the AL East]. Beyond that, we'll have time to make those other decisions."

Rodriguez's final start of the regular season is expected to be on Thursday against the Astros.

"Just go out there next start and try to do the things I did today and wait to see what my role will be in the playoffs, whether in bullpen or as starter," said Rodriguez. "Whatever they put me in, I'll go out there."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Boston Red Sox, Eduardo Rodriguez