Orioles-Red Sox Preview
BOSTON -- On May 31, Eduardo Rodriguez came off the disabled list and beat the Baltimore Orioles -- the team that traded him away in 2014 -- in his 2016 debut.
Thursday night, the young left-hander, who has had two poor starts since, looks to beat the O's again and pitch his Boston Red Sox back into sole possession of first place in the American League East.
Rodriguez, acquired by the Red Sox in the trade deadline deal that sent Andrew Miller to Baltimore, failed to beat the Orioles in three starts last season but then worked six solid innings for the win after coming off the DL.
Then, the roof caved in on Rodriguez, who has been touched for 10 hits and nine earned runs and walked seven in 10 1/3 innings in his last two starts.
"It's all about consistent command," Red Sox manager John Farrell said before his team even the early first-place showdown series with a 6-4 win over the Orioles on Wednesday night. "It's something he's done in the past and something he did in his first start against the Orioles.
"He threw six quality innings in Baltimore and has shown it in a few other starts. It's all about maintaining consistent command."
He's not the only one trying to turn things around Thursday. Before Wednesday's game, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter tabbed right-hander Tyler Wilson as his starter -- and Wilson has struggled as well.
In his last two starts, Wilson allowed 10 runs on 14 hits in just 9 2/3 innings -- and facing a lineup like the Red Sox might not be the best thing for him at this time.
But Rodriguez faces the same problem with a Baltimore lineup that has hit 32 homers in the last 12 games -- the most by a team in a 12-game stretch since the 2006 Atlanta Braves ran up 36.
Last year, Rodriguez ran into problems when he was tipping off his pitches but finished 10-6, giving the Red Sox every reason to view him as a No. 2 or 3 starter behind David Price. A knee injury delayed his 2016 debut and the seven walks over the last two outings have been a problem.
"The walks have been part of the issues," said Farrell. "He has to stay in the moment. One thing that we try to do with him and the other pitchers in that you have 110 individual events inside each game and to focus on that one individual event and not behind or forward."
Wednesday night, the Red Sox ended a three-game losing streak in the season series, riding knuckleballer Steven Wright's team-leading eighth win and Hanley Ramirez's first home run since May 10 to a win that pulled them even with the Orioles atop the division.
The Red Sox won this game with the strong pitching of Wright -- which was big after Price pitched well enough to win but lost 3-2 in the series opener -- 13 hits and some outstanding defense.
The Orioles, who got a big performance out of ace Chris Tillman and the 20th save in 20 chances from Zach Britton to win the series opener, lost Wednesday as Kevin Gausman's season of frustration continued.
Gausman, who has the kind of arm scouts dream about, fell to 0-4 in 11 starts by lasting just three innings as the Red Sox rebounded to even the series.