1. Eduardo Rodriguez Has Righted the Ship
The 23 Year Old Venezuelan pitcher was one of the only bright spots of last years Red Sox last place finish. He came on the scene looking like the real deal especially at such a young age. A big imposing left hander with a hard 95-96 MPH fastball as well as plus secondary pitches.
Towards the end of last year, Eduardo Rodriguez had trouble with “tipping” his off speed pitches to hitters. This was his trouble this year as well as he has held an ERA of over 7.00 for much of this season. However, last night Rodriquez went 6 ⅓ innings only allowing three hits and one run. He was in command the entire game and looked a lot more like himself at the beginning of last year.
In fact, over his last four starts, Rodriguez has pitched 24 innings, has had 21 strikeouts to 8 walks, and has posted a very good 2.63 ERA over that time. If the Red Sox keep getting this kind of production from Rodriguez as their number 5 pitcher, they will be in great shape this year and may finally have the young arm in their system that many have wanted.
2. Timely Hitting Wins Games
For the entire season, the Red Sox offense has been leading just about every category. Batting AVG, Hits, Runs, RBIs, etc. However one area the Red Sox offense has struggled at is getting the big, timely hits in late innings. Obviously on Sunday, the Red Sox had a remarkable 9th Inning comeback sparked by Dustin Pedroia’s three-run home run. Many questioned yesterday, “could they get that kind of timely, clutch hitting more often?”
Well, it didn’t take long for them to follow that up. Heading into the 8th Inning, the Red Sox lineup trailed 1-0 and Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton looked to be on his way to a complete game shutout after baffling the Red Sox hitters through the first 7 innings with his 100 MPH fastball and sharp curveball. Aaron Hill picked a good time to officially introduce himself to the Red Sox faithful shooting a 1-0 pitch just over the LF wall tying the game at 1 apiece. Hill’s first home run as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
The following inning, Markus “Mookie” Betts hit a 1-0 pitch to the same spot as Hill to lead off the ninth and give the Red Sox a 2-1 lead. Kimbrel shut the door in the ninth and the Red Sox secured their second late inning come from behind win in a row. These are the kind of wins that make playoff teams, and it's exciting to finally see this great Red Sox offense have clutch hitting as well.
3. The Bullpen Kept the Red Sox in it
For much of the year, the Red Sox bullpen has been average at best. Coming into the season, it was looked at as a strength of the team with guys like Kimbrel, Koji, Tazawa, and Carson Smith. Unfortunately, each and everyone of our top 4 relievers has been hurt for extensive periods of time. Carson Smith has essentially been out the whole year and 2013 World Series Hero Koji Uehara may be out the remainder of the season as well.
On Monday night, John Farrell went to Robbie Ross Jr. in the seventh inning with runners on second and third, 1 out just after E-Rod gave up an RBI double giving the Mariners a 1-0 lead. The game was at risk of getting out of hand right there and then. However, after hitting the first man he saw, Ross struck out the next two batters keeping the game at 1-0. Tazawa pitched a scoreless eighth inning after the Red Sox managed to tie the game and Craig Kimbrel returned from knee surgery and looked as good as anyone could’ve expected striking out three batters and securing the save.
The bullpen has been in question much of the season, but with guys returning from injury and with the Red Sox making key trades getting Brad Ziegler and left-handed specialist Fernando Abad to fortify the bullpen, this team looks ready to make a playoff push. Before this season began, many fans just said that they wanted the Red Sox to have meaningful games come August. Well, it's August and the Sox are a game out of the AL East so thus far, fans are getting exactly what they asked for.