BOSTON (CBS) — It’s not hard to figure out why the Boston Red Sox have been such a disappointment in 2019. Blame for their discouraging championship follow-up lies with their starting pitchers.

Most of them, that is. In that dark cavern that is the Boston starting rotation, there is glimmer of light. That would be Eduardo Rodriguez, who improved to 17-5 on the season Wednesday night after twirling seven shutout innings against the Minnesota Twins. Rodriguez limited baseball’s hardest hitting team to just five hits and struck out eight, including Jorge Polanco to end the seventh inning. After punching out the shortstop with a changeup, Rodriguez walked off to a standing ovation from the Fenway Faithful.

The 26-year-old southpaw has already set a career-high in wins (along with starts, innings pitched and strikeouts) and should get four more turns on the hill this season. That gives him a shot at becoming Boston’s first 20-game winner since Rick Porcello accomplished the feat in his Cy Young season in 2016.

The personal accomplishment would be nice, but it’s not what Rodriguez has on his mind at the moment.

“It’s not important for me right now to win 20 games,” Rodriguez said Wednesday. “For me, it’s more important to give the team a chance to make the postseason. That’s our goal as a team. Make it to the postseason. If 20 wins come or not, I’m just going to be happy if we make it to the playoffs.”

One of those is much more likely to happen. Boston remains 5.5 games out of a playoff spot with 23 games left to go on the season, so they’re going to need one heck of a run if they want to defend last year’s crown come October. Should the Red Sox make it to the playoffs, Alex Cora would be wise to send Rodriguez to the mound for Boston’s first game. The Red Sox are 22-7 in the lefty’s starts this season.

It’s quite the turnaround for someone who was an afterthought on the pitching staff last fall. But that, along with some tough love from manager Alex Cora this spring, further fueled Rodriguez to break out this season.

“Fair or not, I was very hard on him in spring training. I let him know that this is what we need from him,” said Cora. “Potential is great. But there are a lot of people who just stay with that, and they don’t take the next step.

“He took the challenge. He made some adjustments and now he’s doing what he’s doing,” said Cora.

Comments