The Red Sox got a strong outing from their starter, and held on just long enough before the Cubs coughed up the game in the bottom of the eighth. It wasn’t always a fun weekend, but Boston got a series win against the team who is widely regarded as the best in baseball.
Eduardo Rodriguez was phenomenal tonight. The Red Sox really need someone in the back of their
bullpen rotation to step up, and based on Sunday’s outing it looks like Rodriguez might be the guy. The stuff was magnificent , and he was fooling Cubs hitters all night long. Rodriguez would get into a little bit of trouble in the first two innings — he allowed a double and a walk in the first and a couple singles in the second — but he was able to get out of both jams without allowing a run.
At this point, he really started to turn it on. Starting with the first batter in the top of the third, Rodriguez rattled off five strikeouts in a row. He then allowed a walk and a single with two outs in the fourth before striking out one more to end that inning and give him six strikeouts in two innings of work. It was a marvelous stretch that was highlighted by his changeup, which was working all night. To make it even better, this run came against the most dangerous part of the Cubs lineup. Rodriguez struck out Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, Jason Heyward and Jon Jay.
All in all, it was a wonderful night for Rodriguez. As I said above, his changeup was working for the entire night and was easily his best pitch. While simply pointing out the pitch that was thrown to get strike three never tells the full story — the full sequence got the strikeout, not just the last pitch — it’s worth noting that seven of his nine strikeouts on the night came on the changeups. Cubs hitters were fooled by the pitch all night.
Rodriguez made just one mistake on the night, and that came towards the end of his outing in the top of the fifth. After getting another strikeout against Kyle Schwarber, he left a fastball up in the zone to Bryant. You don’t want to leave a fastball up in the zone to Bryant. The Cubs star third baseman sent the ball deep to center field over the Monster and gave Chicago their first run of the night. Other than that, Rodriguez was great. He benefitted from a big strike zone, but that was consistent for both teams. The one criticism I’d have was that he relied too heavily on his fastball and changeup and didn’t utilize the slider enough. That won’t work all year, but it worked well tonight and I’ll certainly take it.
The lineup, meanwhile, had their hands full with Kyle Hendricks. That same strike zone Rodriguez benefitted from gave the Red Sox fits, particularly against a pitcher who relies more on command than stuff. If you give him an extra inch or two off the plate, he’ll take advantage.
With that being said, it looked like the Red Sox might be able to do some damage after their performance in the bottom of the first. With one out, Andrew Benintendi utilized his sweet stroke for a single. After a Mookie Betts flyout put a second out on the board, Hanley Ramirez put another ball into orbit. Once again, a fastball was left over the heart of the plate for the Red Sox slugger and once again he just destroyed it. Per Statcast, the ball travelled 440 feet, giving him over 900 feet of home runs over the last two games.
That was all of the damage Boston would do against Hendricks, though. Despite a fastball that couldn’t touch 90 mph, the Red Sox had nothing. They’d get a runner on base in both the second and third innings, but — and stop me if you’ve heard this before — they hit into inning-ending double plays in both frames. Boston would get at least one runner in all but one inning against Hendricks, but they never really got any sort of rally going.
Despite all that, they still had a 2-1 lead heading into the seventh when the bullpens got involved. With Rodriguez having tossed 108 pitches through his six innings of work, John Farrell called up Joe Kelly for the seventh. He got a quick first out, but then even more quickly lost his command. He walked both Jay and Schwarber to put runners on first and second with one out. During the next at bat against Bryant, Kelly threw a pitch in the dirt that got by Christian Vazquez, and disaster struck. The ball rolled over towards the on deck circle, but Vazquez had no idea where it went. Kelly either also didn’t know or just didn’t bother to point it out to his catcher quickly enough, and Jay made it all the way from second to score on the play. Although he was originally called out, he clearly beat the tag and the game was tied.
Kelly would eventually get Bryant out and Robby Scott came in to induce a groundout against Rizzo to end the inning with the score still tied.
After Matt Barnes had a solid eighth inning in his return from suspension and the score was still tied, the Red Sox got a little something going against old friend Koji Uehara. The inning started with Marco Hernandez beating Uehara in a foot race to first base, followed by two more singles from Xander Bogaerts and Benintendi to load the bases with no outs. That brought up Betts to face new pitcher Pedro Strop, and the right fielder struck out to set up a bases loaded, one out situation for Ramirez.
Before the slugger could do anything, though, Strop threw a wild pitch of his own to allow Hernandez to come in and score, giving Boston a 3-2 lead. Ramirez would later walk to re-load the bases with one out for Mitch Moreland. The first baseman would hit a weak ground ball to score another run, giving the Red Sox a two-run lead. The fun continued when Dustin Pedroia hit what should have been a game-ending ground out, but Addison Russell couldn’t make a good throw to first and Rizzo couldn’t haul it in. That scored two more, putting the Red Sox up four and pretty much sewing this one up. Although it was a non-save situation, Craig Kimbrel somehow persevered and completed an easy 1-2-3 ninth.
Great to see Rodriguez pitch like that, great to see the offense get a rally going against a pitcher like Uehara, and great to win a series against the Cubs. Now, onto the Orioles.