E-Rod grinds through 5 in Texas for 19th win

Lefty lined up for shot at No. 20 in Red Sox season finale

September 25th, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Unlike many of the sparkling outings has produced this season, Tuesday night presented a sweaty and laborious struggle in the stifling Texas heat.

Though the process contained nothing in the way of artistic beauty, the lefty made it through five innings and rode his team's offensive barrage to a 12-10 victory over the Rangers at Globe Life Park.

This wasn't just any win for Rodriguez. It was No. 19 on the season, putting him in position to hit the milestone of 20 in his final start -- the season finale for the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park against the Orioles.

The last lefty to win 20-plus games for the Red Sox was Mel Parnell in 1953.

Although Rodriguez was largely responsible for his first 18 wins, he knew he had little to do with this one, giving up 11 hits and five runs while throwing 113 pitches in just five innings.

"It's not even my win," Rodriguez said. "That win is for the team, the lineup, everything they do. They are up there grinding to score more runs. The ones I had before were mine, but this one wasn't mine. I was part of the team but everything they did there to get a win for me was really special. Just sitting there, everybody pitching up there, hitting the ball, making plays and everything, that was special to watch."

And Rodriguez didn't forget that manager Alex Cora also made it possible.

With Rodriguez in yet another jam in the bottom of the fifth and his pitch count climbing close to a season high, Cora came to the mound. At that point, Rodriguez was still one out short of qualifying for a win.

Cora told Rodriguez he could face Elvis Andrus, but that would be it.

"I mean, the way I said it [to him] was true. 'You've been the horse the whole season.' I wasn't going to let it get ugly," Cora said. "You know, it was kind of ugly but at the same time, he's still our best pitcher. I told him, 'Hey, you deserve this, I'll give you one more, but you better get him out. This is it.'"

Rodriguez threw two pitches to Andrus, and Delino DeShields gave him a gift on the second one, trying to steal second. Catcher fired a strike for the third out, and Rodriguez's night was over.

When Rodriguez saw Cora come out of the dugout just moments before that, he did fear that his night was over.

"You were watching the game -- I gave up seven runs," Rodriguez said. "With two runs [in], men on base, I thought they'd take me out of the game, but he gave me one more chance. And with [Vázquez], I was about to catch the ball because I thought he threw it back to me. I saw it go to second base, they called him out, and that was special to watch."

Rodriguez went back to the dugout and gave Cora a hug.

"I mean, I love that kid," Cora said. "I've been very honest with him from the get-go about as a staff we push him because we know of the potential, and I think it was the right move. If we were in the hunt or something like that, in the middle of the Wild Card race, he was probably going to be out in the first inning because he was off."

Aside from the potential 20-win carrot that awaits him, Rodriguez will go into Sunday needing just 3 2/3 innings to get 200 for the first time in his career. He went over the 200-K mark in this one, and now has 205 for the season.

"At the end, what matters is that he has a shot for 200 innings and the 20 wins," Cora said.

It looked like Rodriguez would have an easy time of securing the win when the Boston bats got him four runs before he even threw a pitch. But Rodriguez gave the four right back in the bottom of the first.

On a day Cora played his "A" lineup to give Rodriguez all the support he needed, the offense kept churning. belted a solo shot to center in the second to give the Sox the lead back.

In fact, Betts gave up a scheduled day off to support Rodriguez's cause, though he did leave the game in the third with soreness in his left foot.

"With Mookie, coming out of the hotel, he tells me, 'I'm going to play today because of you.' I said, 'Thank you bro, appreciate it.' You see the lineup they put out today to try to get me that win, and they did it," Rodriguez said.

And now it will all come down to Sunday. But Rodriguez realizes that either way, this season has been a victory for him from an individual standpoint.

"Just finish strong," Rodriguez said. "That was the plan when I got here in Spring Training. Finish the season strong, and get ready for the next one."