For everything they went through over the last week in regards to placing eight players on the COVID-19 related injured list, the Red Sox were able to cap off a hellish seven game-road trip with a 4-0 shutout victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field on Thursday.
Matched up against a tough opponent in Rays starter Shane McClanahan, the shorthanded Sox jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on Tuesday right out of the gate.
Bobby Dalbec, having just earned American League Rookie of the Month honors for what he did in August, got his month of September off to a solid start by driving in Hunter Renfroe on a two-out, sharply-hit RBI single in the top half of the first inning.
Renfroe, on the other hand, delivered with a two-out RBI base hit of his own an inning later, as he plated Danny Santana from second base on a line-drive single to left field, thus giving his side an early two-run advantage.
Eduardo Rodriguez, making his 26th start of the season for Boston, took that two-run lead and essentially ran away with it in yet another strong outing.
Over six-plus scoreless innings of work, Rodriguez kept Tampa Bay off the scoreboard while scattering just four hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts on the night.
After taking a perfect game into the third inning, the left-hander managed to face the minimum of 12 batters through his first four frames.
In the fifth, the Red Sox lineup tacked on two more runs of McClanahan, and No. 9 hitter Jonathan Arauz got the mini-rally started by drawing an 11-pitch leadoff walk.
That impressive display of patience and plate discipline flipped the lineup back over, as Kyle Schwarber moved Arauz up to second on another hard-hit single. J.D. Martinez drove Arauz in on a sharply-hit RBI single of his own, while a red-hot Dalbec made it a 4-0 contest by pushing across Schwarber on a run-scoring base knock to center field.
With that brand-new four-run cushion to work with, Rodriguez continued to dominate, stranding a pair of base runners in the fifth and sixth innings, though he did run into some trouble in the seventh.
There, after issuing a leadoff walk to rookie sensation Wander Franco that was followed by a Yandy Diaz single, Rodriguez was put in his first true jam of the night, and he got the hook from Red Sox manager Alex Cora as a result.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 94 (56 strikes), the 28-year-old southpaw turned to his four-seam fastball 46% of the time he was on the mound Thursday, inducing nine swings-and-misses while topping out at 95.6 mph with the pitch. He also later improved to 11-7 on the season and lowered his ERA to 4.88 in the process of doing so.
In relief of Rodriguez, Garrett Richards got the first — and only — call out of the Boston bullpen, and he continued to show how effective he can be as a reliever.
Inheriting a bit of a mess with three outs still to get in the seventh, Richards proceeded to retire the first three Rays he faced (two by way of the strikeout) to officially close the book on Rodriguez’s night before tossing two more shutout innings to pick up his second save of the season and secure a 4-0 victory for the Red Sox.
Since moving to the bullpen on August 13, Richards has allowed a total of one earned run over 13 1/3 innings of relief. That’s good for an ERA of 0.68.
With the win, the Sox were able to salvage a split in their four-game series with the Rays while also improving to 77-59 on the season. They picked up 1/2 a game on an idle Yankees team for the first American League Wild Card spot in addition to maintaining a two-game lead over the Athletics for the second Wild Card spot.
Next up: Welcoming in the Indians
The Red Sox will happily board a flight to Boston and open up a three-game weekend series against the Indians that begins at Fenway Park on Friday night.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi is slated to get the ball for Boston in the series opener, while fellow righty Cal Quantrill is expected to do the same for Cleveland.
First pitch Friday is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)