Rodriguez poised on mound in critical game vs. Yankees


BOSTON - He had pitched well at home and on the road, against American League teams and National League lineups, matched against lefthanded-hitting lineups or those loaded up with righties.

So, of course, it didn't seem to matter that these were the New York Yankees and that this was a critical game for the Red Sox.

Eduardo Rodriguez was himself, which is to say, poised, focused and successful.

Rodriguez limited the Yankees to just two runs over 6 1/3 innings in picking up a victory in the Red Sox' 5-3 triumph over the Yankees Saturday night.

The Red Sox needed this one. The night previous, they had lost a game, yes, but also their starting pitcher to injury, and ground in the standings. Losing the second game of the series would have eliminated any chance of winning the series against first-place New York.

They needed a win and Rodriguez helped them to get one.

Pressure? What pressure?

"In settings he's not been in, we continue to learn a lot about him,'' said John Farrell. "I think everyone in our clubhouse knew the importance of tonight, this stage. He continues to grow each time he walks to the mound.''

Rodriguez didn't try anything new. He attacked the Yankees with almost 80 percent fastballs, and though he had only two strikeouts, he limited hard-hit balls.

"To me, he went out and pitched like the majority of his (previous) starts,'' said Farrell. "He didn't try to change anything. He clearly channeled the adrenaline -- there was adrenaline here tonight -- and did it in a way that he stayed in his delivery and commanded the baseball. On a tough night (after) the loss of a starter, he went out and did his job.''

"I don't know how big a game it was for them,'' said Rodriguez, "but for me, it was the first time I faced the Yankees and it was good to have a game like that and get the win.

There were mistakes, yes -- one to Alex Rodriguez in the first and another to Jacoby Ellsbury in the sixth -- both for solo homers. But notably, Rodriguez rebounded immediately.

"A couple of times he gives up solo home runs and he executes a first-pitch strike to the next hitter,'' marveled Farrell. "He didn't fear the strike zone. He attacked the strike zone with quality stuff. He threw a lot of strikes and for the most part, was in command of the count.''

"I just tried to control my pitches around the strike zone,'' shrugged Rodriguez, as though there were nothing to it. "Sometimes you're going to give up home runs, but you have to keep going.''

The notion of a "must win'' game in July may seem silly, but it was clear that the Sox, at the very least, needed one Saturday. And equally clear that that they had the right 22-year-old rookie on the mound to help them get it.

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