The Red Sox are on a roll, and that continued back at Fenway in the series opener against the Rangers. This time, the offense took a bit of a break until late but the pitching was able to pick them up in a big way. Eduardo Rodriguez was frustrating in the typical ways, but once again he put up results and got through 5 2⁄3 shutout innings. The bullpen picked up where he left off and the defense was chipping in all night as well. Just another day for the Red Sox.
It was more of the same for Rodriguez, which as we’ve said many times is much more good than bad but incredibly frustrating to watch in real time. The Red Sox southpaw did not allow much hard contact on Friday night and was putting zeros up against the Rangers all game long, but he was also throwing a lot of pitches. He nibbled around the edge of the zone, didn’t throw a lot of changeups and ended up going deep into almost every count. This all led to some question of whether or not Rodriguez would even make it beyond the fifth inning in this game, though again, he was putting up zeros. It could have been better, but he did his job and then some while he was on the mound.
The Rangers didn’t even really threaten against the lefty in the first two innings as each frame included one baserunner on a walk but no player advancing beyond first base. However, thanks to the free passes and three strikeouts in the two innings, he was already over 40 pitches at this point in the game. Fortunately, he’d settle down a bit and have a relatively easy 1-2-3 third.
The fourth would represent some real trouble for Rodriguez, however. That inning led off with a Nomar Mazara single, and after a strikeout Adrian Beltre had a single of his own to put two on with one out. Rodriguez came back strong from there, getting a strikeout and a routine fly out to end the inning and keep his shutout going. He’d do the same in the fifth, though defense was the story there. Rafael Devers made a poor error to start that inning, but came back on the next play and made a nice effort to get one out at second base on a ground ball. From there, Xander Bogaerts snagged a line drive on a leaping attempt and Mookie Betts ran ten miles (approximately) to track down a deep fly ball and end the inning unscathed.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense had some trouble getting consistent rallies going against Mike Minor, reverting to those struggles against left-handed pitching yet again. They were able to get a couple of early runs, however, and those fortunately held up. The first inning saw a couple of quick outs, but J.D. Martinez kept things alive with a base hit. That brought Steve Pearce up to the plate, and he had quite the start to his Fenway career. Minor threw him a fastball middle-in, and the lefty masher...well, he mashed it. Pearce sent one into the Monster Seats and just like that the Red Sox had an early 2-0 lead.
Things slowed down after this. The second was a quick 1-2-3 inning, and in the third they were able to get two into scoring position on a Sandy León single and an Andrew Benintendi double, but the middle of the lineup couldn’t cash in. After that, it was two more uneventful scoreless innings, and the 2-0 lead was what stood heading into the sixth.
There, Rodriguez took the mound to start the top half with 95 pitches under his belt, and it looked like he could make it out. The lefty got a couple of very quick outs, but then he allowed a single and a walk and that was the end of his night. Again, it certainly wasn’t perfect but he was good. He did hand off a tough situation for Heath Hembree though, with two on and two out. The reliever came through, though, getting a huge strikeout to end the threat and preserve the shutout.
After the Red Sox went down in a scoreless sixth, Brandon Workman was called upon for the seventh. Things did not get off to a great start as he allowed a leadoff triple to Robinson Chirinos off the wall in straightaway center field. Workman came back strong from there, though, getting a strikeout and two ground outs to keep the runner 90 feet from home and preserving the 2-0 lead.
Boston’s offense would once again go down quietly in the bottom of the seventh, leading to Joe Kelly taking the mound for the eighth. He would, like Workman, allow the leadoff man to reach — though this one on a single — before getting three straight outs (including two strikeouts) to keep the shutout in hand.
In the bottom of the eighth the Red Sox were finally able to cushion their lead a bit when J.D. Martinez came up with two on and nobody out. He got a fastball in and he smoked it out to left field for a three-run shot, extending the lead to five and allowing Craig Kimbrel to sit in the bullpen. Instead it was Ryan Brasier in the ninth for his Red Sox debut and he tossed an impressive 1-2-3 inning to close out the game.
Boston will look to keep the good times rolling on Tuesday in the second game of this series. They’ll send Hector Velazquez out for this start to take on Yovani Gallardo. First pitch is at 7:10 PM ET.