E-Rod gets G3 nod: 'It's really big for me'

October 18th, 2021

BOSTON -- With a couple of good choices at his disposal to start Monday night’s Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, Red Sox manager Alex Cora decided to give the nod to veteran lefty .

After turning in a solid start in Game 4 of the AL Division Series, a clinching 6-5 victory over the Rays on Monday, Rodriguez is excited that Cora is again turning to him in a big spot with this best-of-seven series tied at 1.

“Just having the opportunity to start this game tomorrow is huge for me to be here and know that he trusts me to start,” Rodriguez said. “It's huge. It's really big for me.”

Righty , who was also a candidate, will be available in relief in Game 3. Look for Pivetta to start Game 4 on Tuesday if he isn’t needed Monday.

Cora said there were a lot of variables at play before he decided on E-Rod. One was to separate his lefty starters. Chris Sale is expected to take the ball in Game 5 on Wednesday.

“There was a lot of thoughts, a lot of stuff that we thought about. Obviously, splitting lefties, too, is important,” said Cora. “Don't give them a look of the two lefties in a row. That, and the fact that we still believe that Nick might help us tomorrow out of the bullpen. There's a chance that that happens, and then we'll readjust for Game 4.”

If Pivetta can’t start Game 4, the Red Sox could turn to Tanner Houck, who threw five innings in Game No. 161 of the regular season and five more in relief in Game 2 of the ALDS. And there’s always the chance of a bullpen game.

As usual, Cora is keeping a day-to-day mindset in the postseason rather than looking too far ahead.

Pivetta -- who made 30 starts during the regular season -- has turned into a valuable reliever for the Red Sox down the stretch. He earned the save in Game No. 162 against the Nationals and fired four scoreless relief innings to get the win in the 13-inning epic that was Game 3 of the ALDS.

It has been a roller-coaster season for Rodriguez, who went 13-8 with a 4.74 ERA in 32 starts. But as one of Boston’s longest-tenured players, Rodriguez is used to starting big games.

Cora didn’t put much stock in the fact that Rodriguez was belted by the Astros on May 31 in Houston and June 10 in Boston, allowing six runs over 4 2/3 innings in each outing.

“We all struggled against them during the season. It's different,” Cora said of the postseason. “Game planning, a lot of things that we learned throughout. At that point, he wasn't on point. I think the changeup wasn't good. It was a bad sinker. I do believe he will be OK. The pitcher that we have now compared to who he was when we went there and then he pitched here, it's a lot different. The velocity is up. The changeup is where he wants it.“

Adaptable Otto
For most of the season, veteran Red Sox reliever got his work in the seventh through ninth innings.

But he struggled in September, and Cora is now asking him to get outs earlier in the game.

In Game 1 of the ALCS, Ottavino came on in the third inning and got four big outs in relief of Sale. The righty got two outs to get Nathan Eovaldi out of the sixth in Game 2.

The good news is that Ottavino seems to have his groove back. With that being the case, he doesn’t much care when Cora uses him.

“I think maybe for some guys, [it matters], but for me it doesn't really bother me,” said Ottavino. “I pitched in every role you can pitch in, so [I] just try to roll with it. I think we kind of know what's coming ahead of time with the way Alex likes to run it, so just get on board and keep going.”

Foxboro field trip
Cora made Sunday’s 4 p.m. ET workout optional for his players, and the team didn’t even take batting practice on the field.

In fact, many of the players used the down time amid this grueling schedule to go down the road to Foxboro, Mass., to watch Sunday’s Patriots-Cowboys showdown, which started at 4:25 p.m. ET.

“There were 12 tickets,” Cora said. “I know [Hunter] Renfroe was the one that led the pack. Probably [Ryan] Brasier is there because …”

Cora didn’t finish the sentence, but Brasier is a Cowboys fan.