After the way his season started, the Red Sox will certainly take this version of Eduardo Rodriguez.
And the way their rotation was trending through the early part of the season, the left-hander’s progress is certainly welcomed.
Over his last three starts, Rodriguez is at least finding a brief spell of what’s eluded him in five years in Boston — consistency. The lefty spun his best game of the season Wednesday night at Fenway, hurling six innings and allowing just two hits, and the Red Sox finally got going offensively to get back in the win column with an 11-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
After a pair of disastrous outings in Seattle and Oakland to begin the season, Rodriguez has found a groove. It started against Baltimore, when he said he had worked with Pedro Martinez to make some adjustments. It’s clearly worked.
Wednesday night, he dominated the Tigers, keeping them off-balance with his pitch mix. He induced 18 swing-and–misses — with eight coming via his four-seam fastball, which averaged 93 mph and topped out at 95. He walked three but struck out seven as he was never seriously threatened.
Since making that adjustment prior to the Orioles start, Rodriguez has pitched 18 innings with a 2.50 ERA. He’s struck out 21 and produced 57 swing-and-misses.
This is the Rodriguez that manager Alex Cora was looking for when he challenged him to be better and more efficient during spring training.
Rodriguez set down 11 Tigers in a row before giving up a leadoff walk to Brandon Dixon in the fifth, and he didn’t allow his first hit until Gordon Beckham’s one-out single in the frame. That put runners on first and second, but Rodriguez escaped the jam by fanning Grayson Greiner and JaCoby Jones.
Rodriguez ran into more traffic when he began the sixth by surrendering a leadoff double to Jeimer Candelario and walk to Nicholas Castellanos. But he rebounded and gave up just one run in the inning — on a sacrifice fly by Nico Goodrum — and he never let the Tigers create serious damage.
A night after failing to capitalize on prime opportunities in the Tigers’ doubleheader sweep, the Sox’ offense took a big step in the right direction with a season-high 11 runs, which was aided by a big eighth inning.
The offense got going thanks to some small ball in the second inning. J.D. Martinez opened the frame with a single, and advanced to scoring position on a hit-and-run groundout from Xander Bogaerts. Rafael Devers followed with a sharp grounder that scooted past Beckham at second to score Martinez with the game’s first run.
Devers was then caught stealing on another apparent hit-and-run attempt, but with two outs, the Red Sox weren’t done. Michael Chavis and Jackie Bradley Jr. hit back-to-back singles to put runners on first and third for Christian Vazquez. With Bradley running, Vazquez chopped a grounder that found the vacated right side as Beckham covered second, allowing Chavis to easily score.
The Red Sox extended their lead in the sixth. After Andrew Benintendi drew a one-out walk, Mookie Betts rebounded from a pair of strikeouts to start the game by jumping on a first-pitch fastball from Tyson Ross and hitting it off the Green Monster for an RBI double. Martinez later drove him in with a single to deep left to give the Sox a 4-1 advantage.
The Sox then broke it open with a seven-run eighth. Vazquez hit an RBI single and Benintendi followed with an RBI double before Betts and Mitch Moreland were walked to load the bases with one out. That’s when Drew VerHagen stepped in to strike out Martinez, but he couldn’t find the strike zone.
VerHagen proceeded to walk the next three batters — Bogaerts, Devers and Chavis — as the Sox made it 9-1 and batted around. Bradley then stepped up and delivered a two-run single to put the final statement on the win.