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Rodriguez's quality start helps Tribe avoid sweep

Perez's aggressiveness in batter's box pays off big time
@goodforball
May 12, 2019

OAKLAND -- The Indians aren’t fully certain what Jefry Rodriguez can add to their starting rotation. So far, however, they like the way the mystery is unfolding. Rodriguez, who was included in the package of players that Cleveland received from Washington for catcher Yan Gomes on Nov. 30, is still

OAKLAND -- The Indians aren’t fully certain what Jefry Rodriguez can add to their starting rotation. So far, however, they like the way the mystery is unfolding.

Rodriguez, who was included in the package of players that Cleveland received from Washington for catcher Yan Gomes on Nov. 30, is still developing his skills. Cleveland had no complaints about Rodriguez on Sunday, when he gave up three runs and lasted six innings and earned his first American League victory in a 5-3 triumph over Oakland.

The outcome, which denied the A’s a three-game series sweep, turned in Cleveland’s favor when Roberto Pérez snapped a 2-2 tie with a three-run homer in the sixth inning. That was only one run fewer than Cleveland’s sixth-inning total for the entire season.

Box score

Though Rodriguez yielded Matt OIson’s first home run of the season in the A’s half of the sixth, Cleveland was satisfied with the 25-year-old right-hander’s effort. The Indians need consistency from Rodriguez, who they hope can compensate for the absence of right-hander Mike Clevinger. Back problems continue to nag Clevinger, who has a 25-14 record in the previous two seasons.

Recording three consecutive quality starts, as Rodriguez has done, defines consistency quite well.

“We don’t know him great yet,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I think he’s obviously a really intelligent, thoughtful kid and he’s not backing down from anybody. With this much inexperience, it’s not always going to be perfect. But like I’ve said every time, it’s easy to feel like the glass is more [than] half full. And that’s a compliment to the kid.”

Just when Rodriguez showed signs of faltering, he coaxed double-play groundballs from Stephen Piscotty in the fifth inning and Robbie Grossman in the sixth to stop Oakland's rallies before they started. Moments such as these, Francona indicated, are when scouting reports come to life.

“When you see him when the bell rings, it’s nice to see that the characteristics are bearing out. Competitiveness and composure and things like that,” Francona said of Rodriguez, who has made 12 Major League starts. “We know he’s not the finished product.”

Asked whether he felt pressure to make an impact upon Cleveland’s rotation in Clevinger’s absence, Rodriguez responded through an interpreter, “There’s no pressure at all. I just try to always focus on executing and giving my best.”

Perez made Rodriguez a winner when he clobbered the first pitch he saw from A’s left-hander Ryan Buchter. That sixth-inning uprising began after Daniel Mengden, who was making his 2019 debut, retired Carlos Santana on a fly ball. Carlos Gonzalez and Jordan Luplow then stroked back-to-back one-out singles, which brought Buchter out of the bullpen. He was able to retire Jake Bauers on a line drive to second, but up came Perez, who planted Buchter’s 92-mph fastball in the left-center-field seats.

“The guys were telling me, ‘Be aggressive against this guy. He’s going to try to throw a strike right away,’" said Perez, explaining his eager approach in the batter’s box.

Perez is batting .220 with four home runs, but that’s an improvement over last year, when he hit .168 with two home runs in 62 games. Francona appreciates what he has seen.

“It may not show right now in April and early May numbers, but even in his last at-bat, he hit a line drive to right field,” Francona said. “When he does things like that, he becomes more dangerous.”

Chris Haft has covered the Major Leagues since 1991 and has worked for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @goodforball.