BALTIMORE – Just as Baltimore did to them last week at Fenway, the Red Sox spoiled the O’s home opener. Eduardo Rodriguez won his first major-league start in more than 18 months in the Sox’ 7-3 win Thursday.
The nerves, Rodriguez admitted, were present. After a shaky first inning, which included a two-run homer by the Orioles’ Ryan Mountcastle, Rodriguez got some timely advice from friend and catcher, Christian Vázquez.
“ ‘Now you’re ready,’ ” Rodriguez recalled Vázquez telling him in the dugout. “ ‘Now you go out there and pitch.’ ”
He settled in, retiring eight straight and 13 of 14. Rodriguez surrendered a wind-aided homer to Pedro Severino in the fourth, but finished the game with seven strikeouts and no walks in five innings. He yielded just four hits.
“The home runs weren’t bad pitches,” manager Alex Cora said. “He found his rhythm. His cutter back-door, his changeup was good. He still feels that his sinker wasn’t where it usually is, but overall, it’s about competing and showing his teammates how good he is. And he did.”
Thursday marked the fourth straight game the Red Sox had at least 10 hits. Their 12 in this contest came against six Baltimore pitchers, and included five doubles and the first 2021 home runs for Rafael Devers and Kiké Hernández.
The Red Sox’ 2-5 hitters — Alex Verdugo, J.D. Martinez, Devers, and Vázquez — were 9 for 18, scoring six runs. Martinez went 2-for-5 with a double, becoming just the fifth player in MLB history to open a season with an extra-base hit in seven straight games.
The offensive output had much to do with the club getting to Baltimore’s bullpen. The Orioles came off a tough series with the Yankees, including an extra-inning contest Wednesday, in which the Baltimore relievers chucked 14⅔ innings in three contests.
Starter Matt Harvey’s stuff began to fade in the sixth, following a Devers single and a misplayed Vázquez popup by Mountcastle that ultimately was ruled a hit. The Orioles still held a 3-2 lead, but with Harvey out of the game for reliever Paul Fry, the Sox began to strike.
“We got to Harvey,” Vázquez explained. “It was a key. And we got to the bullpen. They’re tired. So it was our advantage.”
It was Boston’s fourth straight win, the franchise’s longest streak since Aug. 14-18, 2019. Much of the recent success, Vázquez said, is due to the club getting the first win out the way. It allowed the players to settle in after starting the season 0-3.
“We are more relaxed and playing with more confidence,” Vázquez said. “You know we broke the ice. Now we want to keep it going.”
Garrett Whitlock continued the superb start to his Red Sox career, fanning three in a pair of perfect innings relieving Rodriguez. Cora hinted at Whitlock’s confidence in moments of competition despite being taken from the Yankees’ Double A club in the Rule 5 draft this past winter.
“Rule 5 draft guys don’t shake off your catcher,” Cora said, “but he knows what he wants to do. And he does it. He’s been great for us.”
Said Vázquez: “He’s doing good, man, a great kid. Great stuff. Great fastball, plus changeup. I think he’s going to help us big time.”
After Matt Andriese worked around a hit and a walk in the eighth, Matt Barnes struck out the side in the ninth on just 11 pitches.
The Sox will have an off day Friday before finishing up against the Orioles on Saturday and Sunday. Following a drab start, the club has found life in its first full week of the season.
“I know who I got behind me,” Rodriguez said. “These guys started hitting the ball all over the place and we won the game, which is what we’re here for.”