The Red Sox headed into Thursday’s game in Baltimore looking for revenge after the Orioles pulled off the sweep over Boston last weekend to kick off the season. The Red Sox came back strong against the Rays at Fenway, and carried some of that momentum into the start of this series here against the O’s. Eduardo Rodriguez returned to the mound for his first meaningful start since September of 2019, and looked solid even if there was some rust there. It was a good building block at the very least, particularly considering the circumstances. Boston also got homers from Rafael Devers and Kiké Hernández as well as another dynamite showing out of the pen from Garrett Whitlock. Put it all together and you get a fourth straight win for the Sox.
The story for Thursday’s series opener in Baltimore, at least from the Red Sox perspective, was clearly the return of Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound. Obviously he’d thrown some in spring training, but this was the first time he was pitching in a meaningful game since the end of the 2019 season. All in all it was a solid debut, though he also very much looked like a guy who had some rust to shake off, particularly after the delayed start to the season due to some dead arm issues. His command did get better as he went along, and the secondaries looked solid, but the fastball velocity wasn’t always there. He generally didn’t have confidence in the pitch, and it showed.
The good news for Rodriguez was that the offense gave him a lead before he even took the mound. With Matt Harvey getting the start for Baltimore, Boston’s bats got going early in this one. Alex Verdugo got things started out of the two hole, smacking a double down the third base line. Harvey looked to have gotten on track with a J.D. Martinez strikeout, but then he left one right over the center of the zone to Rafael Devers. That is not what I would recommend. The Red Sox third baseman absolutely obliterated it, and just like that it was a 2-0 lead for the good guys. Boston got two more into scoring position in that inning as well, but couldn’t push any more runs across.
So, Rodriguez was out there with a lead in hand, but it wasn’t going to last long. As I mentioned above, his command got better as the afternoon went on, which implies some issues early on. It seemed as though he had trouble locating the fastball in particular and it led to a lot of pitches early. Cedric Mullins continued his red-hot start to the season with a leadoff single, but Rodriguez almost limited the damage to just the base hit.
With two outs, though, he tried to get a high fastball by Ryan Mountcastle. It didn’t get up as high as he was looking for, though, and instead ended up as a 93 mph fastball over the middle of the plate. Mountcastle was all over the 0-2 offering, sending it into the seats for a two-run shot to tie the game. Baltimore got a couple more on thanks to a Marwin Gonzalez error at shortstop and a base hit, but Rodriguez held the game to a tie.
He settled down from there, coming back out for a quick 1-2-3 second inning, and then did the same in the third to give him five strikeouts in the first three innings of work. The score was still tied heading into the bottom half of the fourth as well, but after a quick first out Rodriguez made another mistake. This time it was Pedro Severino at the plate, and he got a fastball right down the heart of the zone. It wasn’t crushed, but it just barely got up and over the wall in right field for a solo shot, and just like that the Orioles were out in front for the first time on the afternoon.
To his credit, Rodriguez bounced back with five straight outs to get through five innings. In that stretch, Baltimore also lost their manager Brandon Hyde, who was tossed after arguing a call that determined Rio Ruiz had swung on a pitch that hit him in the arm.
Rodriguez’s day was done after those five innings, and all things considered it was a solid day. He certainly wasn’t what we hope he’ll be for the bulk of the season, but given the circumstances his five solid innings will do. In all, the lefty allowed the three runs on four hits (two homers and two singles) and seven strikeouts, not issuing a walk.
On the other side, the Red Sox got things going early, but they couldn’t keep the rally going in that first inning and then Harvey started to get into a bit of a groove. They had another chance in the third when Martinez came through with a one-out single and Christian Vázquez smacked his second double of the game to put a pair in scoring position with two outs, but Gonzalez failed to get the runners home. After that they went down in order in both the fourth and fifth innings.
Devers broke up that streak of outs to lead off the sixth when he went against the shift for a base hit, and then Vázquez came through after that with a bloop single that fell into no-man’s land in shallow left field. That bloop ended the day for Harvey, with Paul Fry coming in and Gonzalez stepping to the plate with two on and nobody out, his team still trailing by a run. He drew a walk, loading up the bases and giving the Red Sox a prime opportunity to at least tie this one back up.
They did just that with Christian Arroyo at the plate when he chopped one on the right side of the infield. He was out at first, but a run came in to tie things at three and there were still two in scoring position with one down. Franchy Cordero then laced one into left field, and Mountcastle misplayed it to let it drop in front. That brought one run home, and the throw to try and get Gonzalez at third was off target, allowing Cordero to move up to second. They had a good chance to take extend lead there as well, but Bobby Dalbec struck out, and then a wild pitch didn’t get as far by the catcher as Gonzalez thought. He was subsequently caught between third and home and cut down to end the inning on a baserunning blunder with just a 4-3 lead.
It was a frustrating sequence, but the lead was at least in hand, and Garrett Whitlock was in for Rodriguez. The young righty continued to impress, getting an easy 1-2-3 inning in the sixth including a strikeout.
The offense then continued to put up hard contact. Verdugo started the seventh inning rally with his second double of the game, and that was quickly followed by yet another RBI double from Martinez, making it seven straight games with an extra base hit to start the year for him. A couple batters later, Gonzalez added another run to the tally with a base hit into left field to make it a 6-3 game.
With the lead increased, Whitlock was back out for the bottom of the inning and once again had no trouble at all. He tossed a second straight perfect inning with another strikeout added in, continuing his wildly impressive start to his career.
After the Red Sox added another run to their tally on Kiké Hernández’s first homer in a Boston uniform, Matt Andriese came out to pitch the eighth. He got into a little bit of trouble there with a leadoff walk and a one-out base hit, but a ground out and a strike out got him out of the jam with the four-run lead still in hand.
For the ninth, it was Matt Barnes to try and close out the game. He did that with no problem whatsoever, striking out all three batters he faced, giving the Red Sox their longest win streak since August of 2019.
The Red Sox and Orioles will pick things back up on Saturday in Baltimore following a day off tomorrow. Garrett Richards gets the start for Boston while Bruce Zimmermann goes for the O’s. First pitch is set for 7:05 PM ET.