E-Rod goes 6, discusses gesture to Correa

October 19th, 2021

BOSTON -- From his first pitch of a game, can tell how the rest of his outing will go.

“If I've got a really good command that day, it's going to be a good game,” Rodriguez said Sunday. “If I don't have it, it's going to be a bad game, no matter who you are starting, no matter what team it is.”

On Monday night in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, Rodriguez had it. The lefty threw a convincing six innings in Boston’s 12-3 win over Houston, his second straight strong start after he went 5 1/3 one week earlier in the clinching Game 4 of the AL Division Series against the Rays.

Rodriguez’s ALCS outing was Boston’s longest by a starter this postseason. Nathan Eovaldi went 5 1/3 innings in Saturday’s 9-5 Game 2 win, giving Boston’s bullpen a well-timed break in the midst of the best-of-seven series. Comparatively, the Astros’ starters have gone a combined 5 1/3 innings in the first three ALCS games.

“The fact that he went six innings was very important for us,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “It's three games in a row against a great team, and to be able to rest the bullpen for [Tuesday] is huge, and he understood that.”

After retiring Carlos Correa to end the sixth, Rodriguez made a callback to Correa’s Game 1 go-ahead homer celebration, pointing to his wrist as he walked off the mound. The gesture was not well-received by Cora, who yelled, “Don’t do that,” from the dugout.

“We don't act that way,” Cora said. “We just show up, we play and we move on, and he knows. I let him know. We don't have to do that. If we're looking for motivation outside of what we're trying to accomplish, we're in the wrong business. The only motivation we have is to win four games against them and move on to the next round.”

Rodriguez said it wasn’t something he would normally do, “and it was just part of the game.” The starter said if he sees Correa in person, he’ll apologize.

“Why would it bother me? It’s fun,” Correa said. “It’s the game of baseball. We should all go out there and have fun. I love it. It was great.”

Rodriguez’s biggest challenge of the night came in the second inning, ironically with the Red Sox at the plate. After Rodriguez sat down Yordan Alvarez, Correa and Kyle Tucker on just 12 pitches, he left the mound with applause raining down from the sellout crowd of 37,603 and headed to the dugout, where he’d wait for 36 minutes.

Christian Vázquez’s RBI single opened the scoring in a six-run second, which included a historic grand slam from Kyle Schwarber. After 11 Red Sox batters, the inning was over.

The delay didn’t seem to bother Rodriguez, who quickly recorded three outs after allowing a leadoff single to Yuli Gurriel to open the third. Rodriguez spent the down time moving around and throwing in the cage, a lesson he learned from some of his 2018 teammates.

“ [Chris] Sale, [David] Price, [Rick] Porcello, and even Nate [Eovaldi]. Those guys always teach me how to do the right things, and that's one of the things they always told me,” Rodriguez said. “Even when the other team had long innings like that, move around, go in the cage, throw the balls. That's the way I'm doing it now. In the past, I had some games that were long innings out there, and I was sitting the whole time, and I go out there and I don't feel myself. So I learned because of them.”

Rodriguez was locked in from the jump, retiring the first three batters he faced. His strikeout of Michael Brantley in the first came on a 95.8 mph fastball -- his fastest pitch of 2021. The lefty threw a mix of his four-seam fastball, cutter, changeup, sinker and slider. His velocity was up on every pitch except his slider, which he threw just four times. The fastball averaged 93.2 mph (up 0.6), the cutter 90.5 (up 2.2), the sinker 92.9 (up 0.4) and the changeup 86.4 (up 1). Rodriguez’s one blip came on a three-run homer by Tucker during a laborious 40-pitch fourth inning.

“Establishing the fastball, good changeup, good cutter, good tempo,” Cora said. “One 0-2 pitch that we really don't care [about] because one of the things I told him, I say, ‘Hey, man, we've got to throw strikes. Don't walk people. Make them earn it.’ And he did.”