The Red Sox went into Saturday night’s game with two hopes:
- Win, obviously. They have one win, and one loss in this series. Securing a split would be a good idea!
- Avoid injury, and pray that Eduardo Rodriguez pitched well enough that he could continue to be seen as a factor in October.
For those that did not watch the game, it was the return of Rodriguez, who hadn’t pitched in the majors since just before the All-Star break. He pitched two rehab games in Portland, going 8 innings, allowing a total of 3 hits, and getting 14 punch-outs to go with 4 walks. As such, expectations should be kept reasonable, getting even five innings of a semi-strong effort would be a big win.
In his first MLB action since mid-July, Rodriguez struck out Tim Anderson with 94 MPH heat, which was a welcome sight for the Red Sox, and their fans. Then he struck out Nicky Delmonico, with 95 MPH heat. And then he struck out Avisail Garcia, again, with 95 MPH heat. You are probably getting a theme for how things started out. E-Rod brought some fire to the mound, and set a strong, almost dominant tone, from the get go.
Then he struck out Matt Davidson too. Unfortunately, Yoan Moncada put the ball in play, but it was a weak pop-up in foul ground to Steve Pearce, so I guess we can forgive it. He got back to destroying worlds by striking out Ryan LaMarre at 96 MPH. Five of the first six batters struck out, as Rodriguez flashed incredible stuff, and the only batter to put the ball in play, did so meekly (and is ironically, normally a strikeout machine).
By the end of the fourth inning, Rodriguez had 10 strikeouts. That’s a lot of strikeouts. His fourth inning was a great snapshot into how he did it. High heat, painting the corners, and filthy stuff.
Unfortunately, Carlos Rodon also started strong, and the Red Sox hitters didn’t have an answer early, Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, and Xander Bogaerts all struck out. Much like E-Rod, Rodon’s slider was working, and this made things tough on the Red Sox hitters. The Red Sox got their first hit at the end of the third inning, as Jackie Bradley Jr lined a ball to deep center field, that Adam Engel couldn’t come up with. The resulting chaos led to JBJ landing on third with a triple, and the Red Sox threatening. Mookie lined out, however, and since Bradley came up with two outs... the Red Sox would not score. At least not yet.
Eduardo Nunez ended Rodon’s streak of excellence however, as he drilled a home run to left field, that was initially ruled a double. It took until the beginning of the fifth inning, but the Red Sox found themselves with a lead, and their returning pitcher looking like an ace. The feels were good.
Jackie Bradley Jr felt left out of the Nunez party, so he decided to call the “score more runs” play. This audible turned out to be a good decision, because in the blink of an eye, it was now 2-0, via a second solo shot. Jackie Bradley Jr and Eduardo Nunez broke out to give the Red Sox the lead, exactly how Alex Cora drew it up.
Mookie Betts didn’t hit a home run to follow them up, but he did do something just as fun (at least, in my opinion). He was a pesky jerk (if you look at it from Rodon’s perspective) and fouled off a million pitches (actually, it was five), eventually getting on base because of an error, after seeing 11 total pitches. Counting his plate appearances together, Mookie may not have scored a single hit off of Rodon, but he did cause Rodon to throw 30 pitches over the night, and probably stole a couple of innings from him alone.
Eduardo Rodriguez lost his perfect game in the same inning that Carlos Rodon lost his shutout, the fifth. It was a weak flair to super shallow right field that just got over the head of Ian Kinsler, an amazing second baseman. Sometimes, you can put the best fielders out there, have a weak hit in their general area, and still not get every single out. It was fated. E-Rod will have to wait until at least his next start to throw a perfect game. Which is a shame, because it felt like he had perfect game type stuff up to that point.
His first truly difficult inning would be that fifth inning, as he gave up a hit, and a walk, and began to struggle with pitch economy, throwing more non-competitive pitches in this inning than in his entire outing to this point combined. Through five innings, he’d thrown 75 pitches.
Eduardo Rodriguez (or Steve Pearce, depending on your perspective) made a key gaffe in the sixth, to lead off the inning. Yolmer Sanchez hit a grounder to the area between second and first. This was a ball Ian Kinsler should have played. It was a ball that Ian Kinsler did play. It was an instantaneous reaction moment for Steve Pearce, who broke for the ball, realized it wasn’t in his range, and ended up in no man’s land. That said, Eduardo Rodriguez made no attempt to cover for Steve Pearce, as they are taught millions of times learning the game, and rehash every spring. As a result, Sanchez ended up on first, entirely uncontested.
The next play, a grounder was hit, but it wasn’t in a good enough position to get a double play. The Red Sox settled for the force at second. Then E-Rod struck out his 12th and final batter of the evening.
Unfortunately, the fielding mistake earlier in the inning resulted in a run, when Nicky Delmonico took a ball to deep left field for a double, scoring Adam Engel. That would be the end of the night for Rodriguez, who departed with 5.2 IP of 3 H, 1 BB, 12 K baseball. A single earned run would be placed against him, after Ryan Brasier came in, and shut the door for the inning. The lead remained, but it was a narrow 2-1.
Thankfully, E-Rod wasn’t the only pitcher to make a costly gaffe.
Carlos Rodon entered the 7th inning, still pitching, and nearing 100 pitches. He walked Christian Vazquez (first of all, how?), and gave up a double later in the inning to Mookie Betts, which put runners on second and third. JBJ also flew out to left field, and almost took it out of the yard for a second time, but whatever.
Enter pitcher errors.
Andrew Benintendi dropped a light grounder in front of Rodon, who actually made a really nice snag. Rodon checked over at third, putting Vazquez back on third, and had all the time in the world to make an easy throw over to Matt Davidson. Rodon forgot how to baseball though, and lofted it in the air, just out of the reach of Davidson. Vazquez broke for home, and scored the third run of the night. Rodon, clearly frazzled, and with runners on first and third, with only one out, threw a mistake pitch, something down the middle, to Steve Pearce. Pearce took advantage, and poked the ball through the defense (which was in on the corners), which brought home Mookie, and just like that, the game was 4-1, and the White Sox were on life support.
This ended the night for Carlos Rodon, who actually had a good outing, until the error. Ryan Burr came in to replace him, but gave up an instant hit to the best hitter on the face of the Earth, J.D. Martinez, which made the score 5-1. The White Sox induced a double play on the next batter, but it was too late. The Sox lead appeared secure.
Ryan Brasier hasn’t had many struggles in a Red Sox uniform. Entering action, he’d given up 13 base runners in 22 innings, which is incredibly impressive, regardless of what you think about him going forward, or what his scouting report looks like. Point is, he’s getting results, and as long as he gets them, he’s on the playoff roster. That said, today, he looked a little bit weaker than he typically does. One lined single, and then a grounder that found a hole, and Brasier was in unfamiliar waters, two on, no outs, and the White Sox threatening. Brasier induced a ground ball, covered first, and got a key out. Then he struck out Omar Navarez and Yolmer Sanchez and the threat is over.
I’m not going to sugar-coat it, but I’m also not going to rain on your parade. I don’t know what Ryan Brasier is. I don’t know what to expect from him down the stretch into October. I’ve given up trying to understand him in a conventional lens, because a conventional lens doesn’t fit his story. His numbers are good though, and he’s getting results, so regardless of how it happens, what he’s throwing, where he’s throwing it, or what happens after the ball leaves his hands, it’s clearly working. If nothing changes, he’s on the playoff roster, and is currently way easier to trust than Joe Kelly or Heath Hembree, and that’s all that really matters for our purposes. I’m a Red Sox fan, I’m going to cheer for him for as long as the magic lasts.
The rest of the game was pretty uneventful in comparison. Ian Kinsler hit his first home run with the Red Sox. Matt Barnes had a great inning, which was nice. Joe Kelly also made an appearance, just so we’d know when the game was over. Better yet, Kelly pitched well. I would really like it if that continued.
The Red Sox looked great tonight, for the most part, and they capitalized on the mistakes of their opponent. This is how they do business, and this is why they are on pace for 110 (or more) wins.
- Eduardo Rodriguez did incredible.
- The offense took advantage of mistakes.
- Great work from the bullpen to make things drama-free.
- No hits from Benintendi or Bogaerts. That’s pretty much it.