ARLINGTON, Texas — Eduardo Rodriguez learned on Wednesday that he had been promoted by the Red Sox and would make his major league debut against the Texas Rangers on Thursday night.
The 22-year-old flew to Dallas, checked into the hotel, and tried to get a good night of sleep before the biggest day of his career.
“I dreamed about this game,” he said. “But the game was way better.”
Rodriguez threw 7⅔ shutout innings, allowing only three hits as the Sox beat the Rangers, 5-1. The crowd of 34,081 applauded as he left the mound in the eighth inning.
Rodriguez walked two and struck out seven. Texas did not advance a runner beyond second base against him. It was the best performance by a Red Sox starter this season.
“The best start of my life,” Rodriguez said.
It was supposed to be a spot start for Rodriguez, a chance for the Red Sox to use a six-man rotation for one turn during a busy stretch of games. But Rodriguez foiled those plans. There’s little chance the Red Sox will send him back to Triple A Pawtucket now.
“There’s no decision at this point whether he make his next start with us. I certainly would hope he would,” manager John Farrell said.
Rodriguez smiled when asked if he changed some minds.
“I’ll do what they want,” he said.
It was the longest scoreless outing for a Red Sox pitcher making his major league debut since Billy Rohr threw a shutout against the Yankees on April 14, 1967.
Rodriguez also had the most shutout innings by a Red Sox starter this season. He was the youngest Red Sox starter since 21-year-old Michael Bowden in 2008.
“It was unbelievable,” said Hanley Ramirez, who supported Rodriguez with a home run in the sixth inning. “He kept the ball down and he threw hard. He knows what he’s doing on the mound.”
Rodriguez was facing a Texas team that had won seven of eight games. The Rangers lineup included Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre, and Josh Hamilton. The last-place Red Sox, who had been swept in three games at Minnesota, were desperate for a reprieve from a season gone awry.
If those pressures were felt, Rodriguez didn’t show it before the game. The rookie from Venezuela sat on a clubhouse couch watching television and munching on popcorn.
“I never get nervous,” Rodriguez said. “I just get nervous when I throw my first pitch in the game. I get on the mound, I’m looking around and my heart is almost broke because this is what we feel the first time we get to the big leagues. After that, I did what I can do.”
Rodriguez retired 14 of the first 15 batters he faced, the exception being a double by Hamilton in the second inning.
Rodriguez walked Elvis Andrus with two outs in the fifth inning then came back to strike out Adam Rosales.
Working with catcher Blake Swihart, who caught him in the minors, Rodriguez relied heavily on his fastball early in the game then worked in more off-speed pitches, particularly changeups, the second time through the order.
“To see the middle of the order, how they reacted to his fastball, it’s got good life,” Farrell said.
Rodriguez struck out the first two batters he faced in the eighth inning, his fastball hitting 94 miles per hour. A walk and a single prompted Farrell to come to the mound and end his outing after 105 pitches.
“This was the first time I saw a big league field. That was fun,” Rodriguez said. “Really, really fun.”
The Rangers scored a run in the ninth inning but nothing would spoil this night for the Sox.
Swihart caught Rodriguez last summer after the pitcher was obtained from Baltimore in the Andrew Miller trade. The two also worked together earlier this season in Pawtucket.
Swihart, only 23, saw what he expected.
“That’s the kind of pitcher he is,” he said. “I’ve seen him do this a lot. But against that kind of offense, that was impressive.”
As Rodriguez ably handled the Rangers, the Red Sox scored two runs in seven innings against Texas starter Nick Martinez.
Swihart singled to right field to start the fifth then scored on one-out singles by Dustin Pedroia and Mookie Betts.
Ramirez, who doubled in the fourth inning, led off the sixth inning with a home run to left-center field. It was his 11th home run of the season, the first in 85 at-bats going back to April 29.
Ramirez came into the game hitting .210 this month with one RBI. Since injuring his left shoulder trying to make a catch in left field on May 3, Ramirez had been unable to pull the ball with any authority.
On Wednesday, he said that was the result of pitchers working him inside. The home run came on a pitch on the inner third of the plate. The double also came on a pitch inside.
Ramirez said Pedroia gave him some advice before the game about how he was striding to the ball.
“He was right and we went to the cage and worked on it,” Ramirez said.
The lead grew to 5-0 against the Texas bullpen in the eighth inning.
Mike Napoli drew a walk against Tanner Scheppers with two outs. Sam Freeman came in and hit Brock Holt with a pitch before walking newcomer Carlos Peguero.
Swihart singled to right field, scoring two runs. Rusney Castillo then reached on an infield single as Peguero scored.