The Red Sox have won two games in a row for the first time in 2019. Eduardo Rodriguez also helped provide the team with a first for the year, picking up Boston’s first victory for a starting pitcher. We know wins don’t always tell the story of a performance for a pitcher, but in this case it was absolutely well-deserved. This was as strong as Rodriguez has looked on the mound for a long time. He was attacking hitters and mixing up his pitches, with his changeup looking particularly impressive. He did end things on a sour note by giving up a two-run homer, but that was all the damage he allowed on the day. Tyler Thornburg made things a little closer than they had to be, but the lineup’s six runs were enough to take home the victory.
The Red Sox needed a fix for their rotation woes, and more immediately they needed to find a way to get Eduardo Rodriguez back on track. We all know the story by now with the lefty having plenty of talent but failing to put it together on a consistent basis. His efficiency had been terrible to start the year, and the results were at least as bad. So, how do you fix a pitcher in a funk like him? Well, you bring the Orioles to town, of course! Rodriguez dominated his former club in 2018, and he carried that success right back over to 2019 on Friday night.
It was clear right from the jump that he was feeling it in this one, and as the night went on he was attacking hitters with a fastball he was ultra-confident in while also mixing in a lot of wonderful changeups. It was obviously the best we’ve seen from him this year, and one of the best showings we’ve seen over the last couple of years.
In fact, over the first turn-plus through the Orioles lineup, Rodriguez was perfect. He set down the side in order in the first with a pair of strikeouts, then had another 1-2-3 in the second, and again in the third, and again in the fourth. By the time those four innings were done the southpaw had racked up five strikeouts in that time. The fifth would see his perfect game bid broken up with two outs when Hanser Alberto ripped a single through the left side of the infield, but Rodriguez came back strong and got a pop up to make that the only damage that was done to that point.
He continued to look strong in the sixth as well, allowing just one baserunner. This one wasn’t his fault, however, as a routine ground ball rolled to Xander Bogaerts but the shortstop dropped it as he double-clutched. It was really looking like Boston’s night, though, because right after the error Rodriguez got another ground ball. This one was converted into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning, and Bogaerts could breath a sigh of relief.
While all of this was happening, the offense was going up against a guy in David Hess that they had great success against in 2018. Just like the pitching, the offense was looking to get back on track. Sure, they had scored a good number of runs leading up to this game, but they’d struggled in building early leads. They didn’t exactly break out in that sense here, but it appeared they had their best swings of the season to date.
Boston’s lineup got themselves a scoring chance in the first inning, too, and to no one’s surprise it was started by Mitch Moreland. The best hitter in the lineup over the first two weeks, Moreland ripped a two-out double to put himself in scoring position for J.D. Martinez. It looked like the Red Sox had a 2-0 lead when Martinez made contact, but instead it was a 411-foot fly out to the deepest part of the field right in front of the center field wall.
They’d make up for it in the second with one swing of the bat. It was Andrew Benintendi doing the damage, taking a changeup down in the zone that didn’t quite have enough tail on it and driving it the other way into the Monster Seats for a solo blast. Just like that, with Benintendi’s first homer since late August, the Red Sox had a 1-0 lead.
It would build even more a couple innings later, too, and it started very similarly to the first. Moreland led off the fourth with a single ripped up through the middle, and Martinez’ tough-luck night kept going with a smoked fly ball caught right in front of the Monster in left-center field. Fortunately, the guys behind him made up for it. Bogaerts crushed a double off the wall in left-center field and Moreland ran perhaps as well as we’ve seen since he came to Boston, scoring all the way from first on the play. Then, a couple batters later, Eduardo Núñez smoked a pitch of his own for a single off the Monster, scoring Bogaerts and giving Boston a 3-0 lead.
From here we fast-forward to the top half of the seventh, and Rodriguez got into some real trouble for the first time in this game. For the second inning he wasn’t done any favors by his defense, this time surprisingly because of Mookie Betts. Trey Mancini came up with one out and ripped a line drive out to right field. It was hit well, but Mookie Betts looked to have a good read on it. In a rare occurrence, he misplayed it and it bounced off the top of his glove for a double. That would extend the inning a bit, and two batters later Dwight Smith came up to the dish. Rodriguez got to two strikes, but he caught a little too much of the zone with a changeup and Smith ripped it out over the wall in the right field corner. That would end what was otherwise a great night for Rodriguez and pull Baltimore to within one.
So, with another out still needing to be recorded in the seventh, Matt Barnes came out of the bullpen. He started out great with a strikeout, but the third strike slipped under the glove of Christian Vázquez and all the way to the backstop, allowing the runner to reach. It wouldn’t matter as Barnes got another strikeout to end a tough at bat from Jesus Sucre.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Red Sox looked to get their lead back up a bit with a little two-out rally. Vázquez knocked a single back up the middle before moving up to second on a wild pitch. Benintendi then followed that up with a base hit of his own and he moved to second on the throw home. Vázquez stayed at third, though, so Betts had a chance to make up for his defensive mistake with two in scoring position and two outs. It turns out he wouldn’t even have to do the work. Another wild pitch allowed Vázquez to score and extend the lead back out to two.
With the two-run lead in hand, Brandon Workman came on for the eighth. After getting a couple of quick outs, he lost the zone a bit and walked Jonathan Villar. That brought Joey Rickard to the plate, and he looked like he may have got the Orioles’ deficit back to one. Jackie Bradley Jr. had some other ideas, though, making yet another absurd catch. This time, he climbed the padding in center field to get up and grab a sure double to end the inning. He can play a little defense, folks.
After the Red Sox added two more in the bottom half, it was on Tyler Thornburg to get the final three outs. He did not do that very well. The righty walked the first batter he saw. Then, with Renato Núñez at the dish he caught way too much of the plate with a fastball and Baltimore’s third baseman sent it sailing into the Monster Seats to cut Boston’s lead down to two. Thornburg would get an out after that, but Ryan Brasier was now warm and it was his game to try and save. He did the job getting two straight outs and the Red Sox had the win.
The Red Sox will be back to play the Orioles Saturday afternoon as they look to push this win streak to three. They’ll be sending Rick Porcello to the mound to take on Andrew Cashner. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET.