Eduardo Rodriguez more than did his part on Saturday night at Fenway Park, firing 7 1/3 shutout innings to lead his team to a 4-0 victory over the Orioles.
The lefty took the ball a little over an hour after the news of Sale’s move to the 10-day injured list with left elbow inflammation and delivered just the type of performance Boston needed.
“We’ve got to keep going,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “That’s the way it is. We’ll find out more in the upcoming days. As of now, somebody has to step up. That’s the way it works in this business and we know it. We’ll see what happens in the upcoming days and we’ll go from there. As of now, [Sale’s] on the IL and we’ll figure out the next few days how we’re going to go about it.”
While it has been a disappointing season for the Red Sox in the rotation, Rodriguez has been the team’s most dependable starter. The win gave him a career high of 14 for the season.
“[Rodriguez is] a guy that throughout the season, he’s been challenged throughout and he’s been stepping up,” Cora said. “I think tonight, as far as mix and knowing where we were, going into tomorrow, he did an outstanding job. Good fastball from the get-go. Good changeup. Good mix of pitches. Very efficient. It was a great win for us and for Eduardo.”
Rodriguez kept the Orioles off-balance with his changeup early in the contest, and then utilized his fastball with success in the later innings.
Behind Rodriguez, the Red Sox won their fourth in a row to remain 6 1/2 games behind the Rays for the second Wild Card spot.
"I feel like no matter what happens you've got to go out there as a starter and give as much as you can give,” Rodriguez said. “No matter what happens out of the lines."
It should come as no surprise that one of Rodriguez’s finest performances of the season came against the Orioles, the team that traded him to Boston for Andrew Miller on July 31, 2014, when he was a rising prospect.
In Rodriguez’s past six starts against Baltimore, he is 6-0 with a 1.41 ERA.
“I don't think I've ever seen the guy pitch bad in person,” said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde. “He's just got four pitches that he really locates well. He's got a really tough cutter. He's throwing 95 in the seventh, so he's got a little extra in the tank. He had a really good changeup tonight.
“We hit a ton of slow rollers to [Rafael] Devers because you just can't sit on one pitch. He's got the cutter that he cuts in on you and backdoors on you, and then the changeup too. Just really pitched well."
The only thing Rodriguez lacked early was run support. Brock Holt gave the Fenway faithful a jolt of excitement when he hammered a solo shot into Boston’s bullpen in right to break a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth.
Why the homer was special for Holt
As Holt rounded second base, he pounded his heart. When he touched home plate, he looked skyward and pounded his heart. It was an obvious tribute to his junior college coach Derwood 'Pop' Penney, who died earlier this week.
Holt attended services for his mentor and missed the final two games of a series in Cleveland earlier this week. Saturday marked Holt’s first start since his return to the team, and he ended a homerless drought of 100 at-bats with his shot against righty Asher Wojciechowski.
“During the game you're pretty locked in mentally and thinking about certain things, certain situations,” said Holt. “But as soon as that ball went out, my mind immediately went to Pop. So I gave it one of these [chest taps] around second base and then again at home plate just in case he wasn't watching the first one. So pretty special. Pretty special moment. I came in to [the clubhouse] to a text message from his wife, so she was watching. Pretty cool. Pretty cool thing. And I know he's proud."
Raffy keeps raking
It wouldn’t be a Red Sox win without another big hit from Devers. The ultra-hot third baseman smashed a two-run homer over the Monster against lefty reliever Paul Fry in the seventh to give the Red Sox some breaking room at 4-0.
Devers extended his hitting streak to seven games, during which he’s hitting .500 (16-for-32) with six doubles, three homers, 10 RBIs and a 1.512 OPS.
The homer was his only hit on Saturday.
“That’s a tough lefty and for him to be able to stay on the pitch and go the other way with two strikes, that’s special,” said Cora. “He was a little bit frustrated throughout the night. But that was a big swing for us, to go from 2-0 to 4-0, he gave us some breathing room. We were able to slow down a few guys in the bullpen. He’s been solid. He played good defense today too. He’s having an outstanding season.”