By: Jesse A. Cook (Executive Managing Sports Editor)
Eduardo Rodriguez is two wins shy of a milestone 20-win season, but his Boston Red Sox have made that an empty victory by missing the playoffs.
Boston’s Thursday night, September 19, 5-4 victory at home over the San Francisco Giants marked win number 18 for Rodriguez. He pitched six innings without allowing an earned run and he struck out ten batters.
Unfortunately for the Red Sox, they lost the next night 5-4 to the Tampa Bay Rays, thanks to a game-winning single from the Rays’ Willy Adames. That base hit knocked Boston out of playoff contention.
Boston’s winning problems are not limited to stunning walk-offs hits, though.
The Red Sox bullpen is responsible for 41 losses. The team is 81-75.
The Boston bullpen is additionally responsible for allowing 309 earned runs, 306 walks (second-worst in baseball), and second-worst 29 blown saves. Assuming the Sox had a closer, then their record would most likely be back up in 101-55 area, rather than this dismal slot.
Senior Jake Fritz said that he believes the bullpen will cost Rodriguez his shot at 20 wins. He said, “Well from what I’ve seen with the Red Sox for the last two weeks, I do not believe that Eduardo Rodriguez can get to 20 wins. I also see our bullpen blowing it and I see some different arms getting starts, so maybe our starting rotation will be changed.”
Rodriguez has been a part of eight losses for the Red Sox, taking responsibility for five. His two no-decision games where the Red Sox lost were June 30 in London to the New York Yankees and August 12 in Cleveland against the Indians.
In London, he pitched 5.1 innings, surrendering two earned runs on four hits with five strikeouts, making him the only starting pitcher of the series to last longer than the first inning. When he left, the Red Sox led their rival Yankees 4-2. In the seventh inning, between Marcus Walden, Matt Barnes, and Ryan Brasier, the bullpen surrendered nine runs (Stephen Wright allowed another run in the eighth), robbing Rodriguez and the team of a much-needed win.
In Cleveland, he had a bad night and would have received the loss if not for a clutch double to score Mookie Betts from Xander Bogaerts, which tied the game in the top of the ninth. Of course, Walden came in in the bottom of the ninth to keep the game tied and allowed a leadoff walk-off home run to Carlos Santana.
With two starts remaining for E-Rod in the season, and pitchers rarely going all nine innings, that leaves two more opportunities for the bullpen to blow his chance at winning 20 games.
Fritz said that with the team eliminated from the playoffs, Rodriguez might not even see his final two starts. “We’re eliminated from the playoffs, we’re not gonna be playing our best players, we’re gonna give the Triple-A guys a chance to get in, I don’t think we’re gonna be getting the same run support E-Rod has been getting all season,” he said.
The bullpen is not the lone reason for the Red Sox misadventures, however. Alex Cora proved to be a great manager in 2018, but in spring training, he literally dropped the ball.
He took the ball out of his star pitchers’ hands and dropped it to minor leaguers without a hope of making the major leagues this season. This was done in the hopes that it would save his stars’ arms so that they would not burn out during the postseason, but that decision might cost them a place in the postseason.
Senior Konstantinos Kalogeras said that he somewhat agrees with Cora’s preseason decision because while it might be costly on the team’s record, the players’ health is still most important. He said, “There’s a reason that 20 wins such a hard thing to get because it’s just really hard and taxing on the body.”
The Sox did not reach a record of .500 until their 38th game on May 8. 10 of their first 19 losses came from one of their starting rotation’s “Big Three” of Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello. Other than Rodriguez, the fifth part of the rotation is Nathan Eovaldi, but his inaction in spring training caused him to easily injure himself after only four starts (last on April 17) and he did not return to the rotation until July 22, over three months later.
In his first four, the team won three games, but Eovaldi received a no-decision in every game. In fact, Eovaldi did not earn himself a decision in a game until his win over the Indians on August 14, in which he pitched one inning of relief. Not pitching in Spring Training has cost the Red Sox a full-time starter in Eovaldi and many wins at the beginning of the season from Sale, Price, and Porcello.
“Eduardo just needs to push through, keep going, and try to find a way. I hope he can make it, but if he can’t, we can all understand because 20 wins is a really big milestone,” said Kalogeras.
E-Rod was the only successful pitcher coming out of Spring Training and he pitched the most out of any starter on the team.