Red Sox look to finish sweep of Rays
BOSTON — Eduardo Rodriguez is thrilled to be joining the party.
The Red Sox’s starting pitchers’ party.
“It’s been exciting watching everybody go out there and just pitch and do their job and be the best they can be,” Rodriguez, who comes off the disabled list to pitch the series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday, said after Saturday’s 10-3 Red Sox rout. “That makes me excited to go out there and try to do the same thing, too, tomorrow.”
In Saturday’s victory — Boston’s seventh in a row, Rick Porcello became the first Red Sox starter to allow more than one run in a start. He gave up two in his usual first-inning headache but settled down and yielded only one more through 7 1/3 innings.
Boston starters are undefeated and have compiled a microscopic 1.28 ERA in the eight starts. Granted, the numbers have been run up against two struggling teams — six of the games against Tampa Bay and two against Miami, but 1.28 is 1.28.
And now Rodriguez, trying to get over his latest injury hurdle, is returning quicker than expected from offseason right knee surgery to rejoin the rotation.
“He’s a lot more confident right now than when I met him and talked to him in Miami in late November, early December,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said before Saturday’s game. “At that point, honestly, I was like, ‘This is going to take a while.’ In January, he did everything, showed up to Fort Myers (Fla.) early. He worked hard.”
Just after Saturday’s game ended, the Rays, who have lost seven straight since rallying for six runs in the eighth inning to stun the Red Sox on Opening Day, still hadn’t named a starter for Sunday, but manager Kevin Cash said he will go with Andrew Kittredge, who lost Thursday’s game and is 0-2 lifetime against the Red Sox.
The Rays have scored only 14 runs during their losing streak and were down 8-2 through two innings Saturday thanks mainly to six RBIs by Xander Bogaerts, including a grand slam.
“Nobody’s happy we’re 1-7, but the way the guys — (Austin) Pruitt stepping up (in relief Saturday), Chaz (Roe), (Sergio) Romo (both in relief), obviously Robby (infielder Daniel Robertson, who pitched a scoreless inning), none of those guys are supposed to be pitching in those situations,” Cash said.
“Little things that go unnoticed — Joey Wendle’s diving for balls when we’re down 8-2, Wilson Ramos blocking everything in the dirt. It’s a sign of the type of team that we want to be, we’re just not quite doing it right now.”
The Red Sox are doing everything the right way. They have been errorless through eight games for the first time in club history.
Rodriguez is 0-2 with a 6.57 ERA lifetime in five starts against the Rays, yielding 33 hits, including four homers, in 24 2/3 innings. But the Rays are a different team after becoming the first team in MLB history to trade four 20-home run hitters during the same offseason.
The current Rays are 5-for-27 lifetime against Rodriguez, who brings an 8-8 career Fenway Park record into the start. Brad Miller is 0-for-6, Rob Refsnyder 1-for-6 and Kevin Kiermaier, who missed Saturday’s game because of illness, 1-for-7.
Tampa settled on Yonny Chirinos as regular starter after the rookie pitched five shutout innings Thursday and decided to push Chris Archer back to Monday in Chicago, creating the need for another bullpen start.
Saturday’s 1 2/3-inning/73-pitch disaster start by Jake Faria certainly didn’t help matters.
“It’s frustrating, it’s embarrassing,” Faria said. “I’m in the big leagues and I can’t throw strikes to anybody. Just (a) 3-1 count to almost every hitter. It’s embarrassing — that’s the number one word I would use.”