Eduardo Rodríguez fans seven over 5 strong innings in first start since 2019; Rafael Devers and Kiké Hernández collect first homers of season as Red Sox top Orioles, 7-3, for fourth straight win

Eduardo Rodriguez picked up on Thursday where he left off 557 days ago.

The left-hander’s last start of the 2019 season came against the Orioles, and he allowed three runs over seven strong innings in that contest.

After missing the entirety of the 2020 season due to myocarditis, Rodriguez finally made his long-awaited return to a big-league mound on Thursday in Baltimore.

Working against the O’s in their home opener, the recently-turned 28-year-old again held Baltimore to three runs — this time over five innings — while scattering four hits and no walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the afternoon.

All three runs Rodriguez surrendered on Thursday came by way of the home run ball, with Ryan Mountcastle crushing a two-run homer in the first and Pedro Severino clubbing a solo shot off the lefty in the fourth.

From that point on, though, Rodriguez did manage to retire each of the final four hitters he faced in order.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 79 (56 strikes), the Venezuelan hurler sat at 91-95 mph with his four-seam fastball — a pitch he threw 13 times — while also inducing four swings-and-misses with his changeup — a pitch he threw 25 times.

Able to pick up his first winning decision of the year because of his triumphant effort, Rodriguez’s next start should come against the Twins next Wednesday.

Whitlock, Barnes sharp out of the bullpen

In relief of Rodriguez, rookie right-hander Garrett Whitlock got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen. The 24-year-old followed up his impressive big-league debut from last weekend by punching out three of the six Orioles he faced over two perfect frames of work to pick up his first career hold.

Matt Andriese, who helped Whitlock develop his changeup over the course of spring training, maneuvered his way around a leadoff walk and one-out single to toss a scoreless eighth.

Matt Barnes, meanwhile, was on the cusp of an immaculate inning (nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts) in the ninth, but he still struck out the side on 11 pitches anyway to preserve the 7-3 victory for his side.

Devers gets on the board with first homer

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in Orioles right-hander Matt Harvey, whom they had just seen last weekend.

Following a one-out double from Alex Verdugo, Rafael Devers got the scoring started for the Sox right away by mashing his first home run of the season — a two-run shot — off Harvey to give his side the early 2-0 advantage.

Per Baseball Savant, Devers’ first big fly of 2021 left his bat at 111 mph and traveled approximately 452 feet to deep center field.

Retaking the lead and adding on some insurance

Harvey managed to hold the Boston bats in check after giving up that Devers homer, and him doing that coincided with the Orioles jumping out to a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning.

In the sixth, though, the Orioles starter put the first two hitters he faced — Devers and Christian Vazquez — on base on a pair of singles, and that would lead to his exit from this contest.

Matched up against lefty reliever Paul Fry now, Marwin Gonzalez drew a six-pitch walk, which allowed Christian Arroyo and Franchy Cordero to plate a pair of runs on an RBI groundout and RBI single.

Verdugo sparked more offense in the seventh, as he collected his second double of the afternoon and later scored on a two-base hit off the bat of a red-hot J.D. Martinez — marking the seventh straight game the vaunted slugger has reached base on an extra-base hit out of the gate.

That sequence put the Red Sox up two at 5-3, and Gonzalez added on to that with a run-scoring single of his own to make it a 6-3 contest going into stretch time.

Kiké Hernández comes through with first home run

Devers was not the only member of the Red Sox to notch his first homer of the year on Thursday, as Kiké Hernández did the very same in the top half of the eighth.

On a 2-2, 86 mph slider from Orioles reliever Tyler Wells, the 29-year-old pulled said pitch 372 feet to left field for his first home run in a Sox uniform.

Hernández’s 72nd career homer put the Red Sox up 7-3, which would go on to be Thursday’s final score.

Next up: An off day

Now winners of four straight after starting the season 0-3, the Sox will enjoy an off day on Friday before they look to keep things rolling against the O’s on Saturday.

Right-hander Garrett Richards is slated to get the ball for Boston in that contest, and he will be matched up against rookie left-hander Bruce Zimmermann for Baltimore.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Rafael Devers: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Author: Brendan Campbell

Blogging about the Boston Red Sox since April '17. Also support Tottenham Hotspur.

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