SAN DIEGO -- The Red Sox were supposedly opening an eight-game road trip on Friday night when they took on the Padres.
But it couldn't have felt any more like home to the visitors, who romped their way to an 11-0 victory.
Petco Park was positively packed with Red Sox fans, many of them transplants and many others flying in from Boston to enjoy the beauty of Southern California.
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Red Sox Nation's West Coast bureau couldn't have picked a better night to be at the ballpark. Whether it was J.D. Martinez's personal launch party (pair of three-run homers, career-high seven RBIs) or Eduardo Rodriguez's pitching clinic and baserunning adventure, the night was full-fledged enjoyment for the Sox and their fans.
"It feels like that on the West Coast," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "Different vibe compared to our first road trip. It was different energy. It's not that we didn't have energy in the first one, but it was a lot easier to get used to [the time change] in this one. Obviously it's a great stadium, great fans, and obviously the weather is amazing and we had a blast playing today."
Backed by Martinez's first jack three batters into the game, Rodriguez pitched with a lead as comfortable as the San Diego weather for the entirety of his performance. Then again, Rodriguez is used to that. He carries a whopping run-support average of 8.2 per nine innings, by far the biggest on the staff.
E-Rod -- or El Gualo for Players' Weekend -- reached the 15-win plateau for the first time in his career, firing seven dazzling innings. It was the second straight start that Rodriguez was unscored on. With Chris Sale out for the season and David Price still on the injured list, Rodriguez has anchored what's left of the starting rotation.
"I mean, I don't think I'm the ace," Rodriguez said. "There are three other guys, even four with Nate [Eovaldi] too and Cash [Andrew Cashner], and those guys have way more time than me and have been doing it a long time. I just feel like part of the rotation, and go out there and pitch."
Given all of the injury problems he's had in his career, it has been a pleasant change of pace that Rodriguez has been the iron man, along with Rick Porcello, for this season's rotation.
"He's a strong guy," Cora said. "His mechanics are very clean, very simple and that's why I do feel like you can give him 115 pitches an outing and he can handle the workload. We're very happy that he's been posting every five days."
In this start, there was the levity of watching Rodriguez under National League rules, even as he went 0-for-3 to slip to 0-for-16 in his career. It should be noted that Rodriguez worked a seven-pitch at-bat in his first plate appearance, and managed a sacrifice bunt that led to a run in the second inning.
How bad do Rodriguez's teammates think he is as a hitter?
"Bad. He might be one of the worst, for sure," Martinez said. "I think the catcher was laughing at him at home plate today. That's what he was saying. He goes, 'You can't hit, man. Not that with that swing.'"
What type of scouting report should pitchers deploy with Rodriguez?
"Just throw him fastballs right down the middle, and he's really got no chance at it," Martinez said. "I think he's that bad, honestly."
But Rodriguez finally got a reward of sorts when he tapped a grounder to the mound in the sixth, and first baseman Eric Hosmer dropped the throw for an error.
Taking the shortest lead imaginable, the slow-footed Rodriguez easily got to second on a single by Mookie Betts. Perhaps not realizing the way Rodriguez runs -- or doesn’t run -- Padres pitcher Robbie Erlin threw to first on a slow roller by Rafael Devers, allowing Rodriguez to reach third.
San Diego then made a pitching change, which was extremely timely for the winded Rodriguez, who used the break in action to stand in front of the dugout and chug down some water.
"They're all laughing at me every time because they know how bad I am. You guys have been seeing it a lot too," Rodriguez said. "They said, ‘Congratulations, you're on third base, you have a chance to score right now.' We started laughing."
Fully hydrated, Rodriguez scored the first run of his career on a single to left by Xander Bogaerts.
"I'm happy right now," Rodriguez said. "I feel good for my start but good that I finally scored a run."
Martinez (Flaco this weekend) punctuated the frivolity of that inning with his second smash to left -- his 30th on the season.
In August, the slugger is slashing .392/.472/.743 with seven homers and 19 RBIs.
"I'm always just grinding and figuring out what adjustment I need to make and how to tweak my swing to where I want it to be for that game and that pitcher," Martinez said. "It's really what it is."
As for the Red Sox, they've been grinding too. And with 32 games left in their season, they trail the Athletics and Indians by 6 1/2 for the second AL Wild Card.
"We're not taking anything for granted. The effort is there, we know we're in a big hole but we know we can get hot," Cora said. "There's nothing impossible for us, for this group."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.