Eduardo Rodriguez takes another step back in Red Sox’ ugly loss to Blue Jays

Just when things seem to be going right for Eduardo Rodriguez this season, they go wrong.

A year after missing the 2020 season due to myocarditis, Rodriguez looked great during spring training before a dead arm ended it on a sour note and forced him out of an Opening Day start. He rebounded for a strong April, when Alex Cora described him as an ace, but he regressed in May for the worst month of his career.

It’s happened again in July. Rodriguez was trending up to start the month, but then a migraine forced him out early of last Friday’s start against the Yankees. On Thursday, he returned with one of his worst efforts of the season as the left-hander’s frustrating 2021 continued in the Red Sox’ 13-1 loss to the Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox (63-41) are 1 1/2 games up on the Rays in the division as they head to Tampa Bay for a big three-game series starting Friday. And they have some questions to ask of their starting rotation going into Friday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline as they ponder the need for reinforcements over the next two-plus months.

Beyond Nathan Eovaldi, the rotation is full of wild cards and unconvincing options if the playoffs started today. Chris Sale’s return looms in a few weeks, but it’s uncertain how he’ll look after two years away from the big leagues, no matter how excited Cora and the organization are about him.

“It’s the trade that nobody else can make and it’s the ace,” Cora said. “I think that’s what makes it different. I think in that clubhouse, you see him walking around, you see him putting in work, you see him throwing bullpens, you know that he’s throwing in two days and sooner rather than later he’s going to be with us. I think that changes the whole thing.”

The Red Sox need Rodriguez to find a way to turn it on over the next two months, but his season to date doesn’t allow a lot of confidence going into a potential playoff start. It looked like he was finally rounding a corner this month, as he posted a 2.12 ERA in his previous five starts entering Thursday.

But coming back from the migraine, Rodriguez was shelled by a potent Blue Jays lineup for six runs on seven hits and four walks in just 3 1/3 innings. He gave up three runs on four hits in the first inning, and he and the Red Sox never recovered.

Rodriguez said he wasn’t affected by the migraine or having pitched just one inning in the previous 12 days.

“I was feeling fine body-wise, shoulder-wise, everything,” Rodriguez said. “It’s just the command wasn’t there. That’s all I think it was going that way today. …

“Just turn the page and work on my next bullpen and get back to what I was.”

Rodriguez finished his night with eight strikeouts, but he wasn’t attacking hitters the way he’s accustomed to. He ended his outing with three consecutive walks, the last one to Marcus Semien with the bases loaded to force in a run.

“He was off in that inning,” Cora said. “In between, both innings, he was really good. That’s a positive. But overall, obviously, he expects better. We expect better. He will be better.”

Rodriguez’s season ERA is now at 5.60, the highest of any Red Sox starter.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. later added salt to the Red Sox’ wound with his 33rd homer of the season, a three-run blast off Phillips Valdez that cleared everything in left onto Lansdowne Street to make it 9-0, and the Jays (50-48) were well on their way to a rout.

The Red Sox couldn’t do anything against Toronto starter Hyun Jin Ryu, scratching just two hits off him in six innings. By the seventh, trailing 13-0, the Red Sox threw in the proverbial white towel when they made substitutions that included putting Christian Vazquez and Bobby Dalbec at shortstop. Backup catcher Kevin Plawecki pitched a perfect ninth.

The 13-1 loss marked just the second time the Red Sox have lost by 10 or more runs this season, with the first coming in an 18-4 defeat to the Blue Jays on June 13.

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