The first start of Eduardo Rodriguez' career went better than Red Sox fans could have hoped for. Just 22 years old, with only 48 Triple-A innings to his name, Rodriguez came into one of the league's most notorious hitters' parks, face the league's second most dangerous lineup in May, and came away with an absolute gem in a 5-1 Red Sox win.
That one run? Not Rodriguez'. The lefty set the tone with a 1-2-3 first, striking out Prince Fielder for the third out, then worked around a line drive double from Josh Hamilton in the second with another strikeout, this time of Mitch Moreland. The double wasn't just one of the only hits Rodriguez allowed--the Rangers managed just three against him--but one of the only balls that even looked dangerous against him. Of Rodriguez' 23 outs, ten came on the ground, and seven by way of the K.
Working in the mid-90s for most of the game, Rodriguez located the ball all over the bottom half and surrounding edges of the strike zone. He offered up a lot of first-pitch balls, but proved much stingier when it came to ball two, rarely letting himself get into truly dangerous counts. That changed some in the fifth, when he allowed a two-out walk to Elvis Andrus on four pitches, then went to a three-ball count against Adam Rosales. But he managed to freeze Texas' leadoff hitter with a 93 MPH fastball for strike three, ending the inning.
Notably, Rodriguez did not allow two baserunners in an inning until the eighth, when he followed up a two-out walk to Robinson Chiniros by surrendering a ringing single to Delino DeShields, ending his night. By that point, though, Rodriguez had already set a season-high in both innings pitched and pitch count, and had struck out the first two batters of the inning all the same despite a lengthy wait between frames. He didn't struggle at all in the rare occasion runners reached base, which has occasionally been noticed as a weakness of his in the past.
Of course, we've seen games from the offense that would leave even a night like Rodriguez' headed to extra innings. Or have left Tommy Layne with a loss after allowing a ninth-inning run. And, in fairness, the Sox were in some ways at their level worst tonight, grounding into five double plays. But to produce that many twin killings, they needed to have plenty of baserunners, and they certainly racked those up. Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, and Mike Napoli all reached base three times, with Betts singling home Blake Swihart for Boston's first run in the fifth and Hanley going deep for the first time in May to make it 2-0 in the sixth.
It still would have been a close game, but some mediocre defense from Adam Rosales helped the Sox score three more in the eighth, even with Hanley Ramirez hitting into the Sox' last double play to erase a leadoff single from Pablo Sandoval. A wild pair of Texas relievers combined to offer up two walks and a hit batter before Blake Swihart singled more or less through Rosales' glove to drive in two. Castillo completed the rally with a weak hit to Rosales, who threw the ball away making a throw that likely never would have gotten the out even if it had been accurate.
So the offense was imperfect, but productive. But the real story tonight was Eduardo Rodriguez dominating. The Sox called this a "spot start," but at this point it's hard to imagine he's headed back to Pawtucket.