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Fake Sox Game 50: The bullpen blows it for Eduardo Rodriguez

The Red Sox starter was great, but it wasn’t enough.

Chicago Cubs v Cincinnati Reds - Game Two

The following simulation and images are courtesy of Out of the Park Baseball 21.

Our Fake Sox are coming off a bit of a frustrating game on Wednesday, jumping out to an early lead but failing to build on it, which in turn left an opening for the Rays to get back in it. Matt Barnes would eventually be tried for a second inning of work, and there he gave up the go-ahead, and eventually game-winning, home run. That led to a rubber match on Thursday with Eduardo Rodriguez going up against Charlie Morton.

It was an interesting matchup on the mound with both pitchers having struggled for stretches this year, but Rodriguez was coming off his second best start of the year and Morton had been on a hot streak for about a month. Early on, it was clear the pitching was going to be the story in the game. Rodriguez retired each of the first eight batters he faced before giving up a two-out single in the third, but that was all he allowed there. On the other side, Boston got walks in each of the first two innings but nobody advanced beyond first base.

So, it was still scoreless heading into the bottom of the third, and for the third straight inning Morton allowed a one-out walk. It looked like it would be more of the same after Andrew Benintendi made the second out, but J.D. Martinez had other ideas. Hitting in the two-hole for the second time this year, he once again seemed to like the spot. In his second at bat of the game here in the third, he jumped on a 3-2 pitch and blasted it just up and over the Monster into the seats for a two-run shot to give Boston a 2-0 lead.

Rodriguez only continued to cruise after he got a lead, too. Not falling victim the pressure of the vaunted shutdown inning, the lefty came out in the top of the fourth and struck out the side. The fifth did bring a little bit of trouble, though. Nate Lowe started the inning off with a base hit off of Rodriguez, and then after another strikeout Rodriguez gave up his first big-time contact of the evening. Daniel Robertson was the one who did the damage, ripping a line drive into the right-center field gap for a double, and Lowe got on his horse and made it all the way around to score. Just like that, it was a 2-1 game with the tying run at second with just one out. Rodriguez did keep them to just the one in the inning, though, stranding Robertson at second.

From there, it was smooth sailing for the last couple of innings for Rodriguez. He’d get through the next couple of innings without much of a challenge, and ultimately finished with what was his best start of the year by Game Score, going seven innings with just one run allowed on 11 strikeouts and one walk.

On the other side, the offense got a little bit more insurance late in the game as well. In the bottom of the sixth with the score still 2-1, Benintendi got things started with a leadoff double, and then Martinez came through with a double of his own. The good news is it extended the Red Sox lead to two. The bad news is Martinez had to leave with an injury. It wasn’t a huge deal, though, as it was just a calf strain that wouldn’t require an IL stint. Chad De La Guerra came in to run, and after a ground ball moved him to third Xander Bogaerts brought the run home with a base hit, making it a 4-1 game.

That was still the score heading into the eighth, and now it was up to the bullpen. This would usually be a situation for Matt Barnes, but having pitched a couple of innings the night before he got the night off. In his stead, Kevin Shackelford got the call. It did not go well. The inning started with a double, and then after the first out was recorded Willy Adames brought the runner home with a base hit to make it 4-2. After the second out, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo put runners on the corners with a base hit, and that was it for Shackelford. Martín Pérez came in to try and preserve the lead, but instead he gave up an RBI single and then a two-run double, and just like that it was a whole different ball game with the Rays up 5-4.

Suddenly, it was on the offense to come through. They recorded two quick outs to start the bottom of the eighth, but then they got two singles and a walk to load up the bases trailing but just a run. It was all on the shoulders of Mitch Moreland, but he had a tough night and didn’t snap out of hit here. He struck out on four pitches, and that was that. They’d go down in order in the ninth, and the Rays took the game and the series.

The frustrating loss dropped Boston’s record down to 28-22, and with the Yankees picking up a win it was now a two-game deficit in the division. Down on the farm, Rafael Devers went hitless for the second straight game in his rehab stint with Pawtucket as the PawSox still managed a win, Jarren Duran had three hits in a Sea Dogs win, Salem lost a 2-1 pitchers’ duel, and Greenville did the same.