Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez aims to get back on track vs Toronto Blue Jays

NEW YORK, NV - JUNE 29: Eduardo Rodriguez #57 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the New York Yankees during their game at Yankee Stadium on June 29, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NV - JUNE 29: Eduardo Rodriguez #57 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the New York Yankees during their game at Yankee Stadium on June 29, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

We’ve seen mixed results from Eduardo Rodriguez since he returned to the Boston Red Sox rotation. Facing the Toronto Blue Jays could get him back on track.

The Boston Red Sox are looking for some stability in their rotation down the stretch. Eduardo Rodriguez was expected to be a part of that when he returned from the disabled list at the beginning of this month but the results have been a mixed bag so far.

Rodriguez’ first start after rejoining the rotation was encouraging. He held the Chicago White Sox to only one run over 5 2/3 innings and struck out a season-high 12 batters. Excitement still had to be tempered considering Chicago has one of the weakest lineups in baseball with a league-high strikeout rate.

The Houston Astros provided a much steeper test, one that E-Rod couldn’t pass. The reigning champs roughed him up for five runs over 3 1/3 innings to hand Rodriguez his fourth loss of the season.

The lefty will look to bounce back against a familiar foe Thursday night. Rodriguez will take the mound against the Toronto Blue Jays, a team he’s dominated this season. E-Rod is 2-0 with a 2.41 ERA in three starts against Toronto. He’s struck out 15 batters with only two walks in 18 2/3 innings while holding Jays hitters to a .191 average.

The last time that Rodriguez faced the Jays was the game in which he severely injured his ankle. He was cruising through 5 1/3 scoreless innings before being forced to leave early, depriving him of his chance to earn the win.  He may have an extra bit of motivation to finish the job this time.

The Jays are a team that Rodriguez would seem to match up well against on paper. Their lineup is tied for the league’s fourth-highest strikeout rate at 22.6%, which feeds right into Rodriguez’ strength with his career-high 9.98 K/9.

Toronto is next to last in the league with a collective .231 average against left-handed pitching. They rank 11th in the AL with a .303 wOBA and 90 wRC+ against southpaws.

This lineup lacks many options who have proven successful against Rodriguez in the past. Justin Smoak has terrorized the Red Sox with three homers and a .970 OPS at Fenway Park this season but he’s been held in check by Rodriguez. Smoak is only 3-for-12 against him without an extra-base hit. That .250 average is still the second-highest on the team among Jays hitters with more than six career at-bats against him. Most of their lineup has been well below the Mendoza Line against the Red Sox lefty.

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The lone exception is Kendrys Morales, who is 7-for-24 (.292) with a home run against Rodriguez. As long as he can keep Morales’ powerful bat at bay he should breeze through the rest of their order.

Boston has already reached the century mark in wins and they hold a 10 game lead over the New York Yankees in the division. They should be on cruise control over the final few weeks but they need to get their rotation in order before the postseason. Chris Sale is still building up his workload following a lengthy absence and Rick Porcello has been a mess lately. David Price has been outstanding in the second half but he can’t carry the staff on his own.

The Red Sox need another starter that they know they can count on in October. Rodriguez has the talent to be that guy but we still aren’t convinced that he’s ready for that role. Is he the pitcher that dominated the White Sox lineup or the one who was rocked by the Astros?

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Rodriguez has a limited amount of time to answer that question and it begins tonight. If he can’t get the job done against a team we’ve seen him have success against several times this year it will raise a lot more questions about this rotation.