The Red Sox are riding high in first place and still uncovering new things to get excited about.
The latest: Eduardo Rodriguez is getting better with every start.
Tuesday, he touched 95 mph for the first time since Sept. 24, 2019 while holding the Toronto Blue Jays to just two runs on three hits over six-plus innings.
He finished with six strikeouts as the Red Sox (12-6) took a 4-2 win against the Jays (7-10).
“Being able to throw 95 mph today, I feel really good,” Rodriguez said. “I feel really good with everything, all my pitches, changeup, everything was working really good. Just keep working. I feel like my body is right where it has to be. Velocity is going to get back at some point and now I know it’s back.”
Manager Alex Cora gave Rodriguez a little bit of extra rope after six dominant innings and sent him back out for the seventh.
At that point, Rodriguez had given up just two hits, both to Bo Bichette. The rest of the Jays’ lineup was 0-for-18. But on the second pitch of the inning, Randal Grichuk hammered a hanging breaking ball for a home run to left, ending Rodriguez’s night on a low note.
He was otherwise terrific, with his hardest fastball in almost two years and a changeup that continues to look like one of the best in the game. He mixed in a few cutters, sliders and sinkers, too, generating at least one swing and miss on each of his five different pitches.
“You saw the velocity today, right?” Cora said. “The velocity was up. I don’t know at the end how it balances out, but I saw some 95s, 96, some four-seamers up in the zone. He’s still looking for that two-seamer to put guys away, the comebacker. He’s left some of them over the heart of the plate. Overall, you can see him, stamina-wise and control-wise, he’s a lot better.
“The cutter, it’s playing better, although the one he threw to Bichette, it looked more like a hanging slider, it was a big one. He wanted to throw it harder. It was one mistake and the kid just put a good swing on it. I do believe velocity is getting there, so that’s a good sign. Separation between the fastball and the changeup, that’s what makes him great.”
After missing the entire 2020 season when he caught the coronavirus in July and suffered through myocarditis, a heart condition that prevented him from walking for a period of time, Rodriguez is looking better each time out.
“After everything I went through last year, I was just thinking about getting on the mound again,” he said. “After the last three starts, I just enjoy what I do. Enjoy every pitch I throw, everything all the time. I just enjoy right now.”
Through three starts against the Orioles, Twins and Blue Jays in the books, Rodriguez has thrown 16 innings with 18 strikeouts, two walks, 12 hits and a 3.38 ERA.
1. Xander Bogaerts is on the board. Facing Hyun Jin Ryu, one of the best lefties in the American League, the Red Sox stacked their lineup with nine right-handed hitters. A calling card of the Red Sox this year has been taking their singles, as Christian Arroyo and J.D. Martinez did when they began the fourth inning with a pair of base hits. Bogaerts stepped up and got a 1-2 fastball high-and-tight that he quickly turned on and sent flying over the Green Monster for a three-run shot. It was Bogaerts’ first home run of the year. The shortstop had a big smile on his face as Kevin Plawecki pushed him through the dugout in the laundry cart afterward. Bogaerts is now hitting .393.
2. Bobby Dalbec is starting to look comfortable at the dish. Monday, he drew a 14-pitch walk, the longest plate appearance in MLB this season. Tuesday, he was able to ignore some bad pitches and control the strike zone with confidence in a 2-for-3 performance at the plate. He even hammered a curveball into the triangle for his first triple of the year.
3. Arroyo is on fire. The out-of-nowhere story of the year for the Red Sox so far, Arroyo got another start at second base, this time hitting in the two-hole, and went 3-for-4 with a double, his seventh double of the year. He’s now hitting .357 and has become an everyday player in Cora’s lineup.