After dropping the series opener to the Houston Astros by a final score of 6-3 on Friday night, the Red Sox were back at it looking for some redemption on a Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park.
Making his 21st start of the season today was Eduardo Rodriguez, who dominated against the Chicago White Sox in his first start since returning from the 10-day disabled list in his last time out on September 1st.
Pitching into just the fourth inning of this one, the left-hander found himself not having the same amount of success he had in Chicago. Instead, the Astros got to him early and often, which as you could guess, led to some problems.
In the 3.1 frames of work on Saturday, Rodriguez surrendered five earned runs on six hits, two of which were home runs, and three walks to go along with four strikeouts on the afternoon.
It was somewhat a tale of two starts for the 25-year-old in this one, because he began his day by retiring the first four hitters he faced in order.
It was not until Carlos Correa ripped a one out double off of Rodriguez where things really started to go down hill, because that was followed by a Tyler White triple that could have been caught by Jackie Bradley Jr. and a Jake Marisnick sacrifice fly that saw the Astros jump out to a 2-1 lead.
Over the next two innings, solo home runs from Alex Bregman, his 30th, and Martin Maldanado increased that Houston lead to three runs, and after walking George Springer with one out in the fourth, Rodriguez’s evening would come to a disappointing end.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 78 (49 strikes), the Venezuela native did not receive much help from his catcher, Christian Vazquez, in terms of calling a quality game, and that resulted in some hard hit balls from the Astros.
Out of those 78 pitches, Rodriguez turned to his four-seam fastball the most on Saturday, as he threw it 36% of the time he was on the mound. He also topped out at 96 MPH with that same pitch in the first inning.
Falling to 12-4 on the season with his ERA inflating up to 3.64, the fourth-year hurler will look to reclaim that form he had on display against the White Sox in his next time out, which should come against the New York Mets next weekend.
In relief of Rodriguez, the Red Sox bullpen was surprisingly not to blame for this particular loss.
Brandon Workman was first up, and he closed the book on Rodriguez’s outing by allowing the second Astros run of the fourth to cross the plate on a sac fly, but bounced back with a scoreless fifth inning of work.
Bobby Poyner allowed the first two hitters he faced in the sixth to reach base, then sat down the next six Astros he faced consecutively going into the middle of the seventh.
Finally, Tyler Thornburg, who was pitching on no days rest for the first time since August 20-21st, dealt with his fair share of traffic on base paths, but ultimately held Houston scoreless in the two frames of relief he worked to hold his team’s deficit to three runs.
All and all, the Red Sox bullpen’s final line from Saturday looks like this:
5.2 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 4 K.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Astros right-hander Charlie Morton, who was making his first start since August 28th after being placed on the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder discomfort.
Starting the scoring right away in this one was Xander Bogaerts, whose one out RBI single in the bottom of the first drove in Mookie Betts from second and gave Boston an early advantage.
Fast forward all the way to the fifth now, and Bogaerts struck again by mashing his second home run of the series and his 21st of the season that pulled the Red Sox to within three runs of Houston.
That would end up being Morton’s final inning, and despite reaching base a total of nine times off the Astros hurler, those two runs were all the Red Sox could manage through the first five frames on Saturday.
After rookie reliever Josh James and Ryan Pressly shut things down through the end of the eighth, it all came down to the ninth inning with Astros closer Roberto Osuna on the mound for the second straight night.
A Blake Swihart leadoff pinch-hit single, followed by a one out walk from Mookie Betts, brought the tying run to the plate in the form of Andrew Benintendi.
A wild pitch from Osuna allowed both runners to advance 90 feet, and Benintendi capitalized on that mistake by driving in Swihart from third on an RBI single to left field. 5-3 game.
With JD Martinez coming up representing the game-winning run, the Red Sox could not have asked for a better scoring spot to be in with the league leader in RBI at the plate.
Unfortunately, Martinez could not come through with a clutch hit and instead grounded into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Some notes from this 5-3 loss:
With runners in scoring position on Saturday, the Red Sox were only 3/13 (.231)
Xander Bogaerts tied his career-high in home runs today (21) and also set a new career-high in RBI (92).
Going for their 98th win of the season once again tomorrow night, it will be Rick Porcello getting the start for Boston.
In his last time out against the Astros on June 3rd at Minute Maid Park, Porcello allowed just three runs (two earned) to score on five hits over 6.1 innings in what would turn out to be a 9-3 Red Sox win.
Opposite Porcello will be another former Cy Young Award Winner in Houston’s right-hander Dallas Keuchel.
Over the course of his seven-year career, Keuchel has made two career starts at Fenway Park.
In those pair of starts, the former seventh round draft pick has given up 11 earned runs in 16 innings pitched. That’s good for a 7.62 ERA to go along with a not so nice 1.69 WHIP.
First pitch of the series finale is scheduled for 8:05 PM ET Sunday. Time to salvage something.