It was jarring to see Eduardo Rodriguez step out on the mound tonight for the first time, sporting a clean-shaven face that we have never really seen before. I think we better get used to it, though. The lefty was dominant in the Bronx here on Friday night, starting what is a huge second half for him. He didn’t allow a run all night, which was good because the offense didn’t have a lot of big innings in them. They had enough, though, with Christian Arroyo’s two-run shot in the second coming through as the big swing of the night. Throw in another strong night from the bullpen, including two scoreless from Tanner Houck, and you get a nice shutout win to start the second half.
The Red Sox had a bit of a delay to their first half after Thursday’s game was postponed, but they were back in action looking to start their second half on the right note. They have a big stretch ahead of them immediately out of the break, facing exclusively inter-division competition for the rest of the month. And facing a Yankees team that just continues to have one thing after another go wrong, the Red Sox were also looking to bury their biggest rival.
At the plate, they were going up against lefty Jordan Montgomery, and for the most part they struggled to get a whole lot going against him in the early going. The one exception to that, however, was in the second. Things got started with a walk from Xander Bogaerts before Rafael Devers finished a strong at bat with a liner out to left-center field for a double. With two men in scoring position and nobody out, it was a chance to break a scoreless tie, and Hunter Renfroe came through to break said tie with a ground ball. It was an out, but it brought Bogaerts home to give Boston the 1-0 lead.
Christian Vázquez would just miss one in the next at bat, flying out to deep left field for the second out of the inning, bringing Christian Arroyo to the plate. He looks to be one of the players set to lose some time with the arrival of Jarren Duran, but he made the most of his time here on Friday. Arroyo got a changeup up and away and used right field to his advantage, poking an opposite-field shot to up the Red Sox lead to three.
Like I said, that was the exception for the Red Sox offense, who through six innings only had the two hits from that second inning. The good news is that Eduardo Rodriguez was dealing on the other side. It was a strange first half for the southpaw, who put up good peripherals on a consistent basis but just kept giving up hits and runs. All signs were pointing to him being a bounce-back candidate for the second half, but at this point you have to see it before you can really buy in.
But on Friday, he had all of his pitches working, and more importantly his command was on point. Rodriguez was working the edges of the zone, particularly the outside corners, masterfully. He did start the game off by allowing a leadoff single, but then got a double play after that to keep the first inning to just three batters. Similarly, he worked around a leadoff walk in the second for another scoreless frame.
And then from there, he really started to settle in. Rodriguez struck out two in a perfect third, then did the same in the fourth. It was the fifth when we saw the most trouble of his night to that point, though even that wasn’t really his fault. The lefty got the first two batters he faced in the inning, both on strikeouts, but then Chris Gittens kept the inning alive with a walk. That brought Trey Amburgey to the plate, and he hit a slow grounder over to the left side. Devers made a solid play coming in and his on-the-move throw was on target, albeit a little low. But Bobby Dalbec at first base let the ball clank off the side of his glove, keeping the inning alive and putting runners on the corners. It was a potentially huge error, but Rodriguez got Tim Locastro with a nasty changeup (which was his best pitch all night) to strand the runners and keep the score at 3-0.
Hirokazu Sawamura had started to get warm during that fifth inning, but Rodriguez still came out for the sixth with the same score. He got two quick outs, including one on his eighth strikeout of the night, but then Rougned Odor ripped a double into right field. That would be the end of the night for Rodriguez, leaving a runner on second for Sawamura with Gary Sánchez coming up. The Red Sox righty won the battle, and Rodriguez was able to wrap up his night with 5 2⁄3 shutout innings, allowing just two hits and two walks to go with eight strikeouts.
After the Red Sox offense stayed cold with Domingo Germán coming in for the seventh, it was Tanner Houck coming out for the bottom of the inning. In for his first major-league appearance since April, he got off to a good start with a pair of ground outs. However, Gittens was able to keep another inning alive with a two-out walk, and then Greg Allen came on to pinch hit. He’d pull a base hit into the right-field corner, putting runners on the corners with another pinch hitter coming up, this time Hoy Jun Park. Fortunately, Houck was able to work out of the trouble with Park swinging at the first pitch and grounding out to first base.
With Justin Wilson coming on for New York in the eighth, it looked like it’d be another listless inning for the Red Sox bats after two quick outs. But then J.D. Martinez stepped to the plate. He was still looking for his first hit of the night, and he’d get it here as he got an 0-2 fastball right down the middle and he blasted it the other way for a solo shot, making it a 4-0 game.
That brought Houck back out for the eighth inning as well, and he just continues to look unfazed at the highest level. He had a perfect inning that included a strikeout of Giancarlo Stanton, and the Red Sox had just one more inning to get through.
Houck would be the guy to try and get through it for the three-inning save. It was still a 4-0 game, and the righty got it done with a perfect inning. That closed off a big win for the Red Sox, pushing their record to 56-36. As of this writing, the Rays are tied with the Braves in the eighth. The Red Sox currently hold a two-game lead in the division pending the result of that game.
The Red Sox and Yankees continue this now-three-game set on Saturday. Boston will have Nathan Eovaldi on the mound to take on Gerrit Cole. First pitch is set for 7:15 PM ET on FOX.