Red Sox LHP Eduardo Rodriguez continues success against Yankees

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 12: Eduardo Rodriguez #52 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning at Fenway Park on September 12, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 12: Eduardo Rodriguez #52 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning at Fenway Park on September 12, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

Boston Red Sox left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez built upon his impressive track record against the rival New York Yankees.

Not many pitchers can feel confident facing the stacked lineup of the New York Yankees. Boston Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez is one of the few who isn’t afraid of the challenge.

Rodriguez turned in his best effort of the season on Thursday, shutting out the Yankees over five innings. He allowed only one hit, walked three and struck out eight.

The Red Sox would have preferred to have their starter last deeper into the game rather than risk putting it in the hands of a struggling bullpen. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans. A lengthy rain delay interrupted Rodriguez’ brilliant performance after five innings.

A case could be made that manager Alex Cora should have stuck with E-Rod once the weather cleared. However, asking a starter to resume taking the mound after sitting for nearly an hour is a risky bet.

Rodriguez was already at 93 pitches at that point. Even if he was able to keep rolling into the sixth inning, he wasn’t going to stick around much longer based on pitch count. Matt Barnes pitched a scoreless sixth inning. The bullpen didn’t begin to unravel until Heath Hembree imploded in the seventh. It’s unlikely E-Rod would have made it through seven innings without factoring in the rain delay, so ultimately the decision to pull him after five may not have mattered.

More from Red Sox News

The Red Sox overcame the latest bullpen collapse thanks to the heroics of J.D. Martinez. A win leaves us with far less incentive to second-guess the manager. The real takeaway from this game is how well Rodriguez pitched while he was in the game.

Of course, this is nothing new for E-Rod when he faces the Yankees. He’s 4-2 with a 2.70 ERA in 10 career starts against the Bronx Bombers. He’s been even better in Yankee Stadium, where he owns a 2.25 ERA. Only two other pitchers have produced a lower ERA in the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009 (minimum five starts).

Boston has won all seven games that Rodriguez has started this season, although his own performance has been far from consistent. His abbreviated debut can be forgiven considering it was his first start since recovering from knee surgery. E-Rod then ripped off a string of three consecutive wins, producing a quality start in each. That was followed by back-to-back outings in which he was lit up for five runs by both the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers.

Facing the Yankees typically isn’t the cure for what ails a struggling starter yet it works for Rodriguez. The strong outing lowered his unsightly 5.29 ERA to a more palatable 4.58 ERA.

While the ERA still remains a bit higher than we’d like, Rodriguez has shown improvement with a career-high 11.3 K/9. That ranks fifth among American League qualified starters, just behind teammate Chris Sale (11.5 K/9).

Rodriguez does need to work on reducing the number of walks he allows. He’s always been a bit wild but his current 3.9 BB/9 would also be a career high. As great as he looked against the Yankees, he still issued three walks. That’s dangerous against any lineup, let alone one loaded with sluggers who can take the ball out of the park at any time. He got away with it this time but Rodriguez’ generosity with the free passes is a dangerous line to walk.

Even if none of the batters he walked came around to score, those walks still led to a rapidly increasing pitch count. Rodriguez has lasted more than six innings only once this season and he’s yet to complete a full seven. That’s nothing new. E-Rod tossed 7+ innings in only two of his 24 starts last season.

Next: Moreland needs more playing time

The 25-year old still has some things to work on but he’s showing progress in his fourth season. The Yankees are a team that the Red Sox will battle with for the division crown all season and they may meet in the playoffs. His past success against New York proves Rodriguez can be relied upon against their biggest rival in potentially pivotal meetings.