Eduardo Rodriguez Masterful Again

As the Red Sox enter the home stretch of a pennant race, it would be silly not to recognize the excellence of their starting pitching. At one point this season, fans were begging the Red Sox to pick up any starting pitcher available.That is how bad the Red Sox starters were. Red Sox starters have dominated the last month and a half and it is no surprise that they’re back in the hunt for a division title. Everyone has had success in the rotation lately, but maybe the most important piece has been Eduardo Rodriguez.

Rodriguez came into this season with a lot of hype surrounding him. He won 10 games last year as a rookie and looked to be a blossoming young star. His 2016 campaign did Rodrigueznot get off to the start he wanted; his first start of the season came in late May and he struggled in the first half. His low-light: a June game in Tampa where he was shelled for nine runs on 11 hits. Unable to make it out of the third inning, the debacle led to him being chewed out on the mound mid-game by Dustin Pedroia.

Rodriguez’s Second Half

Rodriguez was sent down to Pawtucket in late June due to his struggles. Since the All-Star Break he is only 1-3 but has a 2.73 ERA. He has brought his ERA from the brutal June 8.59 down to 4.83. The highlight of Rodriguez’s comeback has been his last three starts. In those starts he has only given up five runs in 18 and 1/3 innings. Sunday was definitely Rodriguez’s best start. He pitched 7 and 2/3 no hit innings and shutout the A’s for a full eight innings. Unfortunately for him, the Red Sox found a way to lose the game and “E-Rod” received a ‘no-decision’ for his efforts.

The most impressive part about Rodriguez’s turnaround? His complete change of attitude on the mound. While in Pawtucket, Rodriguez had to develop secondary pitches after leading the league in fastball percentage. He improved his slider and change up tremendously during that stint. When he was rushed back up to Boston, he flourished. He is pitching with confidence and craftsmanship.

The way Rodriguez and the starting rotation are going right now, the Red Sox have a great chance at playing postseason baseball again. Looking at this recent success, it is hard to understate the importance of Eduardo Rodriguez’s maturation.

Boston Breaks Out Bats in Clean Sweep

The Red Sox offense has been on fire lately, torching the Oakland A’s for 40 runs in a clean sweep this past week and racking up 17 more in the first two games of this weekend’s four-game set against the Houston Astros. Boston now leads all of baseball in runs, hits, doubles, slugging, total bases, and OPS while hitting .296 as a team, looking like the murderer’s row that made three straight playoff appearances from 2003-2005.

Boston Breaks Out Bats in Clean Sweep

Monday marked the unofficial start of spring in Boston as temperatures in the city pushedClean Sweep 70 degrees, which, along with a return to Fenway’s cozy confines, seemed to help the Olde Towne Team break out of their mini-slump. After scoring just nine runs in their Mother’s Day weekend series at Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox kicked off their home stand in grand fashion, pummeling the A’s 14-7.

That set the tone for the rest of the series, which saw Boston batter Oakland for 13 runs and 16 hits in the middle game, followed by 13 more runs and 17 hits in the series finale as they put the finishing touches on their clean sweep.

Though every Red Sox player contributed in some form or fashion, Jackie Bradley, Jr. was the star of the series with a pair of six-RBI games, continuing his recent breakthrough at the plate.

New Opponent, Similar Results

Boston’s bats didn’t cool off when Oakland left town. The Red Sox greeted the Houston Astros with another offensive outburst on Thursday, pounding last year’s AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel for eight runs on 10 hits in six innings. They later added three more runs to their ledger against Houston’s bullpen, breaking double digits for the fourth night in a row. Every Sox starter notched at least one hit, which had been the case the previous night as well.

Boston’s streak finally came to an end Friday night, as the Sox lost (there will be no clean sweep of Houston) after scoring “only” six runs on 11 hits. It looked like they might reach double digits again after getting halfway there in the second inning, but they scored only once more the rest of the way. Perhaps the evening’s rain dampened their bats as well as the field.

But with warm weather and plenty of sunshine forecast for the weekend, Boston looks to finish its home stand with a flourish. With thumpers such as Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Colby Rasmus, and Carlos Gomez, among others, the Astros have a thunderous lineup that rivals Boston’s, so the Sox will need to keep up the pace to continue winning. Seeing as how Houston’s pitching staff ranks last in the AL in hits allowed and second-to-last in runs allowed, that shouldn’t be too difficult.

Red Sox Trade Rumors: Sonny Gray

The Red Sox finished up the first half of the season on a 10-5 run, and could be a couple of pieces away from being contenders for at least a Wild Card spot. The main area of concern right now is the pitching, which became more of a dire need after Clay Buchholz went down with an injury. Clay Buchholz was pitching well before said injury, but he was also pitching well before his injury in 2013. He came back from that and hasn’t looked like the same guy until this season.

Aside from Cole Hamels, who has been talked about for months now ad nauseam, Sonny Grayanother possible move could be Sonny Gray of the Oakland Athletics. While the Red Sox have yet to decide if they’ll buy or sell this season, I think they’re poised pretty well to be buyers, especially if they come back and pick up where they left off before the All Star Break.

As MassLive points out, and I agree with this, the price for Gray might be high – he has a 2.04 ERA, and 108 strikeouts to 30 walks this season. The A’s are currently 8.5 games back in a very tough AL West division, so they may look to do what the Red Sox did at the trade deadline last year and sell off their best guys to get some young players in return. If that’s the case, the Red Sox make for prime targets, as they have one of the best farm systems in the league.

Will the Red Sox actually pull together a package for Gray? I hope so. If it came down to it, I’d rather have Sonny Gray over Cole Hamels if the Red Sox do make a move for a pitcher – he’s got the stuff to succeed here and he’s only 25, so he’s still hitting his prime, which is a scary thought. Cole Hamels would be a win today type of move, while Gray would make an immediate impact this year and beyond. What do they have to lose?