It sounds cliche, and it’s been said about this specific Red Sox team about a million times already, but it’s true: They just keep finding ways to win. Friday night in Oakland was another example. The offense had a bunch of chances in the first half of the game to break the score open, but time and time again they came up short. Eduardo Rodriguez did give them a great performance, but then the bullpen gave up a pair of solo home runs, and that was enough to send it to extras. But again, this team just knows how to win. They got one run in the top of the 10th and kept things scoreless in the bottom half thanks to a huge play from Kiké Hernández, making it eight wins in a row.
We knew this was going to be a tough season for Eduardo Rodriguez in some ways, with the lefty coming off a year in which he was infected with COVID and then developed myocarditis, keeping him off the field for the entirety of 2020. But the kind of tough this season has been tough to anticipate for anybody. All season, the lefty’s peripherals have looked as good as they have at any point in his career, but the results just weren’t following. He was combining a few too many hits with some bad luck, and needed some kind of turning point. He was fantastic against the Yankees last time out, and was looking to use this start in Oakland as a way to build on that and really make this a turnaround.
He succeeded, getting through this Oakland lineup as sharply as we’ve seen from him all season. Rodriguez got a little assistance from the umpire on a few backdoor cutters to get the momentum rolling, and made relatively quick work of this Athletics lineup through the early going, issuing just a walk in a scoreless first inning.
The southpaw saw his first bit of trouble in the game in the second, however, but it came in the form of more bad luck. Chad Pinder led off the inning reaching on an error when Marwin Gonzalez appeared to stumble a bit as he was getting into his throwing motion, leading to a weak and ineffective throw to first. Pinder then moved up to second on a ground ball before Frank Schwindel hit a two-out grounder into the hole in left field. It looked like it would sneak through to give Oakland the early lead, but Xander Bogaerts made a huge diving stop. He didn’t get the final out, but he saved a run, and the run saved would stand as Rodriguez got the final out after that and kept the A’s at zero runs.
From there, things got pretty stress-free for the next few innings. Rodriguez tossed a perfect third, issued a leadoff walk but still only faced three batters in the fourth thanks to an inning-ending double play, and then got through another perfect inning in the fifth.
So the Red Sox starter was doing his thing, but the offense struggled to give him much support going up against a former Boston prospect in Frankie Montas. The righty retired each of the first six batters he faced. The Sox finally got something going in the third, with Christian Vázquez leading things off by getting hit by a pitch and quickly moving up to second on a wild pitch. It was a big chance to score the game’s first run, but they managed just a walk through the rest of the inning and remained scoreless through three.
That did finally change in the fourth, though with a little good fortune on their side. After Bogaerts led the inning off with a walk, Devers hit a little soft line drive out to left field that looked like a simple base hit. Tony Kemp tried to do too much, however, extending for a diving catch and coming up short. The ball rolled by him, and by the time center fielder Ramón Laureano was there to pick it up, Bogaerts was around to give Boston the 1-0 lead. They also had a runner on second and still nobody out, but once again they failed to get that runner home.
The fifth inning set up to be similarly frustrating to for them as well, when they got the first two batters on with a base hit and a hit batter. That brought Kiké Hernández up in a big spot, but he hit into a big double play to make things much more difficult for his offense. Fortunately, Alex Verdugo avoided things being a total waste, smacking a base hit through the left side for an RBI single, giving his team the 2-0 lead.
As we made our way into the sixth, the Red Sox once again threatened early, getting back-to-back singles to start off the inning. But after two quick outs, it looked like another potential failed opportunity. Danny Santana was able to keep things alive with a walk, though, and that was the end of the night for Montas with another former Red Sox farmhand, J.B. Wendelken, coming in with two outs and the bases full. He needed only one pitch to get a pop up, and the score was still only 2-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth.
It seemed like the Red Sox should have been leading by much more, but they weren’t and they needed Rodriguez to continue cruising. They had exactly zero problems with that. The lefty had another perfect inning in the sixth, even snagging a pair of strikeouts to do it. That ended up doing it for the lefty on the night despite sitting at a reasonable 89 pitches. But it was another strong outing, tossing six shutout innings on just a single hit and two walks with six strikeouts.
With Rodriguez out of the game and the Red Sox failing to add insurance in the top of the seventh, Garrett Whitlock came on for the bottom of the inning with a two-run lead to hold. The rookie got off to a nice start with two quick outs including a strikeout, but Jed Lowrie put a wrench into the night. He got a fastball up in the zone and was all over it, sending it up and over the wall in right field for a solo shot, cutting the Red Sox lead in half.
Following a second straight 1-2-3 inning for the Boston offense, Whitlock came back out to start the eighth, and he held the lead again. The righty tossed a perfect inning this time around, striking out the final two batters of the inning.
After another scoreless inning for the offense, it was Matt Barnes with a one-run lead coming in for the save attempt. The Red Sox closer has been so rock solid this year, but he faltered this time around. Elvis Andrus has been one of the worst hitters in baseball this year, but Barnes left him a fastball middle-middle, and Andrus sent it out to the deepest part of the park to tie things up at two runs apiece. Fortunately, Barnes got three straight outs after that, and we were heading for free baseball.
In the tenth, with the free runner starting on second, it took just one swing to give the Red Sox their lead right back. Hernández hit a little broken-bat liner into center field and Michael Chavis came around to score, making it a 3-2 game.
In the bottom of the inning, it was Ottavino trying to close it out this time around. He didn’t get off to a great start, allowing a leadoff base hit through the left side to put men on the corners. Sean Murphy followed that up with a fly ball out to center field, and Seth Brown tried to tie the game from third base. Kiké Hernández had other ideas, however, firing a bullet to the plate to cut down the runner for a huge second out. One routine fly ball later, and the Red Sox had pulled out their eighth straight win.
The 3-2 victory pushed the Red Sox record to 52-31. With the Rays losing, Boston’s lead in the division grows to 4.5.
The Red Sox will look to clinch yet another series win on Saturday, with Garrett Richards taking on Cole Irvin. First pitch is set out in Oakland for 7:15 PM ET.