E-Rod, Sox blank Nats to secure sweep
WASHINGTON -- The pitch mix was back for Eduardo Rodriguez on Wednesday afternoon, and so was the effectiveness.
With key position players (Xander Bogaerts, Mitch Moreland) getting the day to rest, Rodriguez helped carry the Red Sox to a 3-0 victory to complete a three-game sweep of the Nationals at Nationals Park. By improving to 10-3 and lowering his ERA to 3.84, Rodriguez equaled his career high in wins, set in his rookie season of 2015.
The lefty washed away the shakiness of his past two starts by holding off the Nats. He did it by bringing back his changeup, using it 26 times in 84 pitches. Rodriguez had become far too fastball-happy last time out when he threw 15 changeups in 95 pitches in a disappointing loss to the Yankees.
"A good mix today," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "More changeups, a few sliders, great fastball. He competed the whole time under tough conditions. That's what makes him good. That changeup is one of the best in the league; he can throw it to righties and lefties. He was really good today."
Asked Tuesday how he would rebound from his last start, Rodriguez offered this: "You'll see."
Rodriguez quickly backed up his confidence by pounding the strike zone from the outset of a July 4 matinee that started at 11 a.m. ET. In six scoreless innings, Rodriguez allowed three hits while walking one and striking out six.
"The last few starts, I was throwing more fastballs and was getting more hard contact. Today, I was using my changeup and slider, and it worked well like before," said Rodriguez. "Every time I throw the changeup for a strike and get a swing and miss, it helps my fastball, because they just think of the changeup and they get below it."
The victory pushed the American League East-leading Red Sox to 30 games above .500 for the first time this season at 59-29.
On a day when offense was hard to come by for both sides, the Red Sox scratched out two runs in the seventh to break a scoreless tie.
Rafael Devers started the winning rally by smashing a double. Eduardo Nunez followed with a single, putting runners at the corners with nobody out. Jackie Bradley Jr. then lofted a medium-depth fly ball down the left-field line, and Adam Eaton made a sliding catch to grab it in foul territory. Devers tagged, then hesitated, but scored anyway, landing awkwardly on his right shoulder to give Boston a 1-0 lead. Nunez roared home on a wild pitch to make it a two-run lead.
Bradley belted an RBI double in the ninth to score Nunez from first, providing additional insurance.
"Any time you can help the team win is a positive. Any way you can do it," Bradley said.
Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel (save No. 26) each pitched a scoreless frame to pin down the win for Rodriguez.
"He was amazing," Bradley said of Rodriguez. "He was mixing speeds, going in and out with his pitches and was able to get some big outs when we needed to. He just competed all day."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
A wacky sac fly: Bradley was hoping the fly ball he hit in the seventh would land in the stands so he wouldn't be out. Devers started toward home, then stopped, then went, and he still made it in front of the throw by Eaton, who made a sliding catch and double-clutched before firing it home. Once Bradley realized there was action coming down the third-base line, he got back in position to help out Devers.
"I was just hoping it would get foul, out of play," said Bradley. "Good things happen sometimes. Honestly, I didn't even look at first, and I was about to start heading to the dugout after Adam caught the ball and I saw him coming down the line. I still had a job to do, so I told him to get down."
The Red Sox continue to thrive in Interleague Play, winning 12 of their past 13 games against NL foes and 18 of their past 20.
HE SAID IT
"I'm proud of them. They show up every day, they prepare, they go about their business the right way, they enjoy winning and they don't get caught up in whatever's going on around us. They're focused on the task at hand. We know where we're at, but we still have a long ways to go." -- Cora, on his team being 30 games above .500
The Red Sox will get an off-day in Kansas City on Thursday and then start a three-game series against the Royals on Friday at 8:15 p.m. ET at Kauffman Stadium. Ace Chris Sale, who has reminded Cora of Randy Johnson in his recent starts, will take the mound. Sale (8-4, 2.41 ERA) fired seven scoreless innings in his last start at Yankee Stadium, allowing one hit and striking out 11. The Royals counter with righty Jason Hammel (2-10, 5.56 ERA).