Things were feeling bleak for the Red Sox heading into Wednesday’s game in Detroit. The sky wasn’t falling, but the calls that it was suddenly felt more plausible than any other point this season. It’s not fun suddenly feeling like the sky might be falling, and you’re looking for a jump back to reality. Enter: Eduardo Rodriguez. Coming off one of his worst outings in what has been a tough year, the southpaw came up huge in this one. You’d still like him to go a bit deeper than the five innings he tossed in this one, but he was dominant while he was in. Throw in three homers for the Red Sox, and they grabbed their first win after a five-game skid.
It feels strange to say anything against a team that is not in the American League East, and is not competing with the Red Sox for a postseason spot, is the biggest anything for this roster. But Wednesday felt that way for Rodriguez. There is an argument to be made that the southpaw is the most important part of this roster down the stretch, or at least for the rotation, and he was coming off a pretty terrible outing his last time out. Between his trends and the team’s trends, having lost five straight, there were just too many reasons to list why this was a huge start.
And he came through. That hasn’t really been the case for him a ton this year — there is a real conversation to be had about how much of that was his fault and how much of it was the baseball gods working against him — but he played stopper in a big way this time around. It came against a pretty good lineup, too. Detroit isn’t elite, but their better than most give credit for and have been riding a hot streak for a couple months now.
Rodriguez came out firing, though, and immediately showed he was not messing around with a slew of strikeouts. There was a little bit of trouble in that first inning when he followed up a leadoff strikeout with a walk and a base hit to put runners on the corners, but the Red Sox lefty came back with two more strikeouts to get out of the inning without a run.
There was a little cause for concern given the traffic in that first inning, but Rodriguez eased any of those concerns in short order. He struck out two more in the second to work around a two-out walk, and then got two more K’s in the third to strand a runner on second after Franchy Cordero just missed a pop up going back down the first base line.
The shutout would continue from there as well. For as dominant as the start was generally speaking in terms of results, there was generally at least one runner reaching base and efficiency wasn’t exactly a strong suit on the night for Rodriguez. That said, he did get his one perfect frame in the fourth, grabbing one more strikeout for good measure to keep Detroit off the board through four.
Of course, pitching has only been part of the issue for the Red Sox over this losing streak. The offense has arguably been a bigger problem, or at least as big, particularly with runners on base. And sure enough, they got runners on the corners in the first before Rafael Devers quickly grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The good news is, the power did show up, and it started in that second inning. J.D. Martinez led things off, hitting in the park where his rise to stardom really happened, and he provided a flashback of sorts. On a fastball up in the zone, he went the other way as he so often does, just barely clearing the wall in right-center field for a solo shot. The Red Sox had the 1-0 lead.
They had one of those the previous night as well, though, so they certainly didn’t want to stop there. But they didn’t get any more base runners after that home run, and then wasted a leadoff single in the third before doing the same with a leadoff double in the fourth. That still gave them the lead heading into the fifth thanks to Rodriguez, but it was still feeling deflating with all the wasted chances.
It sure appeared they were going down the same road in that fifth inning as well, as they followed a leadoff double with two straight outs. (Including a strikeout on a pretty bad call, to be fair.) But then Kiké Hernández provided a big sigh of relief for everyone. He hit an absolute laser out to left field for a two-run shot, extending the lead to three and finally giving the Red Sox a big swing with a man on base. And then Jarren Duran liked the looks of that, and he went the other way for a solo shot to make it back-to-back and a four-run game.
So there was now a four-run lead for Rodriguez to play with, but he did show some control issues in this inning. The southpaw walked the leadoff man, and then after two more strikeouts — numbers eight and nine on the evening — he kept the inning going with one more walk. That brought Robbie Grossman to the plate, and with Miguel Cabrera looming on deck it felt like Grossman was Rodriguez’s final batter no matter what. And Rodriguez won the battle, getting yet another strikeout to keep the shutout alive and maintain Boston’s momentum.
It was exactly what the Red Sox and what Rodriguez needed. Again, there was some inefficiency and if Rodriguez is really going to be a major piece of this rotation as they try to get back atop the division and stay there you’d like him to go deeper. But for the purposes of this start, it was more than acceptable. He didn’t allow a single run over five innings, striking out 10 in the process.
Now it was just up to the bullpen to not blow it. Hirokazu Sawamura got the call for the sixth, and after a leadoff single from Cabrera off the first base bag it looked like they got a double play but a bobble by Rafael Devers limited them to just one out. Sawamura then issued a walk to put a second man on base, but then followed it up with two straight strikeouts to strand the runners and keep the four-run lead.
The bats got back to their old act in the seventh, wasting a leadoff triple and ultimately stranding a pair in a scoreless inning, bringing Josh Taylor into the game. He got off to a good start with two straight strikeouts, but then Jonathan Schoop blasted a fastball over the plate for a solo homer. That cut the lead to three, and after a walk Alex Cora lifted Taylor from the game, bringing in Adam Ottavino. It took him one pitch to end that frame.
He’d come back out for the bottom of the inning as well, working around a one-out double to keep the deficit at three. That just left one more inning to get through, and it was Matt Barnes trying to do it. He was just taken off the COVID list after a one-game absence from the roster, and making his first appearance since July 28. He didn’t have much rust, getting through a scoreless ninth to close this one out and snap the streak.
The 4-1 victory pushed the Red Sox record to 64-45. The Rays also grabbed a win on Wednesday, so Boston remains one game back in the division.
The Red Sox and Tigers now turnaround for a rubber match Thursday afternoon before Boston heads back east. Martín Pérez gets the ball for the away team while the Tigers turn to Tarik Skubal. First pitch is set for 1:10 PM ET.