MILWAUKEE -- Johan Oviedo and Endy Rodríguez have been teammates for a little over a month, but their chemistry already possesses depth. Oviedo and Rodríguez live in the same building, and the two often chat with one another about the intricacies and nuances of their game plan. In recent weeks, it hasn’t been hard to tell how well they’ve worked together.
With Rodríguez behind the dish, Oviedo put together one of his finest starts of the season, throwing seven shutout innings and recording his third consecutive quality start as the Pirates beat the Brewers, 4-1, on Sunday afternoon at American Family Field.
“Johan was really good today,” said manager Derek Shelton. “That’s a good lineup over there and he kept them off-balance the entire game.”
With Sunday’s outing, Oviedo ties Mitch Keller for the most quality starts thrown by a Pirate this season (12). Oviedo (4.18) also surpassed Keller (4.35) for the lowest qualified ERA on the Pirates.
This is the second time in his career that Oviedo has strung together three consecutive quality starts, the only other instance coming several months back in April. Over these last three starts, Oviedo has allowed two runs across 20 innings (0.90 ERA) with 16 strikeouts, eight walks and no home runs allowed. And over those three starts, Rodríguez was behind the plate playing the part of conductor.
“He’s been learning really quick,” Oviedo said. “He’s got such good talent. He’s an amazing kid. What I really like about him is that he’s always trying to learn. … We have a really good relationship right now.”
Added Rodríguez through team interpreter Stephen Morales, “It’s a lot of conversations in between innings and working together. I’ve seen the difference the last few innings when it comes to the mental game. We communicate a lot in between innings. I think that’s key for our success.”
Oviedo’s outing provided a much-needed breather for the Pirates’ bullpen, which had thrown a combined 19 2/3 innings over their last four games. In three of those four games, the bullpen covered at least five innings. On Sunday, Pittsburgh’s relievers only needed to cover the eighth and ninth.
Rodríguez enjoyed a great game in his own right, recording the first three-hit game of his career. The 23-year-old began his afternoon by sending Brandon Woodruff’s payoff inside fastball into the right-field bleachers in the third inning for the second home run of his young career. At 107.1 mph, Rodríguez’s home run was his hardest-hit ball at the Major League level.
After showing off his power in his first plate appearance, Rodríguez showed off his speed in his second. When Rodríguez noticed that Brewers third baseman Andruw Monasterio was shaded towards shortstop, he opted to lay down a bunt and use his legs to record his second hit of the game in the fifth inning. For good measure, Rodríguez pulled a single into right field in his third plate appearance in the eighth, setting the table for Bryan Reynolds’ pinch-hit, two-run home run.
“It feels good,” Rodríguez said. “The first time with everything feels good.”
Added Shelton, “Overall, I thought he played his best game. That’s easy to say when a guy goes 3-for-4. He was on time.”