Red Sox pass first test in what figures to be their last stand

Rob Bradford
August 24, 2019 - 7:32 am
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It was a good time had by all (except for the Padres).

The wacky nicknames. 

The weird cleats.

The nice weather.

And even one of the game's worst-hitting pitchers, Eduardo Rodriguez, got to score a run. ("Bad. He might be one of the worst, for sure. He’s bad," said J.D. Martinez of the Red Sox' starting pitcher.
"I think the catcher was laughing at him at home plate today. That’s what he was saying. He goes, ‘you can’t hit, man. Not with that swing.’"

But what shouldn't be lost -- no matter what the venue, the coast or the team -- is that the Red Sox' are staring at do-or-die for the next week or so. By the time they play at Fenway Park again, it will be Sept. 3 marking the place in the schedule where reality is defined. You get to early September and you know either you are in or you aren't. That's why these next eight games in San Diego, Colorado and Anaheim might be a nice late-summer sojourn for some, but for Alex Cora's club, it will represent its last stand.

The Red Sox certainly played like a team with an understanding that this isn't just about fun and sun, walloping the Padres 11-0 thanks in large part to Rodriguez and J.D. Martinez, who came away with a career-high seven RBIs. (For a complete recap of the Sox' win, click here.)

Make no mistake about it, this is a Grade 17 uphill climb for the Red Sox, who sit 6 1/2 games in back of both Cleveland and Oakland in the race for the final Wild Card spot. (Tampa Bay is 1/2 game in front of those two.)

But all the Red Sox can do is what they did -- get top-notch starting pitching and a dominant offensive performance.

If there was one singular takeaway Friday night -- besides some funky cleats -- it was Rodriguez. While the Red Sox have been sleeping through much of the season, maybe we have been sleeping on "El Gualo." ("That’s a nickname when I was a little kid," Rodriguez explained to reporters. "My younger brother can’t say Eduardo so he was saying Gallo, Gallo all the time. That’s how my family calls me and that’s what I put on the back of my uniform.")

He is the only Red Sox starting pitcher with an ERA of under 4.00, sitting at 3.92 after throwing seven shutout innings against the Padres. In his last nine starts, Rodriguez has only gone fewer than six innings twice while totaling a 2.64 ERA. For a starting staff that has made a living trying to figure out how to get through even five frames the lefty has been godsend. 

"It means a lot to the organization," said Cora told reporters regarding Rodriguez's emergence. "We know the talent. I’m his biggest critic. I push him to be great because I know he can be great. For him to do the things he’s doing, it’s pretty special."

There is still a ton of work to do, almost too much.

The Sox will still be filling in the gaps when it comes to their starting rotation, with Nathan Eovaldi pitching Saturday before Brian Johnson closes out the series with his start Sunday. The earliest David Price will pitch is next weekend against the Angels, with your other top-of-the-rotation guy Chris Sale already eyeing 2020.

It's a start. And they got to do it all in off-the-beaten-track uniforms under the San Diego sun. Everything felt right, which certainly hasn't been something this team has uttered all that often this season.

"Different vibe compared to our first road trip," Cora told reporters, citing the season-opening West Coast swing. "It was different energy. It’s not that we didn’t have energy in the first one but it was a lot easier to get used to in this one. Obviously, it’s a great stadium, great fans, obviously the weather is amazing and we had a blast playing today."

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Michael Chavis began his rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket Friday, playing five innings at first base while going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.