NEW YORK — Eduardo Rodriguez expected he would spend the season in Triple A. He hoped the Red Sox would call him up in September; that was the goal. The 22-year-old lefthander knew he still had plenty to learn.
But Rodriguez arrived in May and never went back, building a foundation start by start. On Monday night, he laid the final piece of a stellar first season by pitching six strong innings against the Yankees.
“The chance came and look at where I am,” Rodriguez said after the Sox cruised to a 5-1 victory.
Rodriguez allowed one run on seven hits and struck out five with one walk. He finished the season 10-6 with a 3.85 earned run average — 4-1, 2.08 in the last seven starts.
“It’s been an impressive run since the end of May. Ten wins, to have this type of year. Pretty special guy,” interim manager Torey Lovullo said.
This is what the Red Sox envisioned when they traded lock-down reliever Andrew Miller to the Baltimore Orioles last season to obtain Rodriguez.
“This was the best year I had in all the time I’ve been playing baseball,” he said. “Coming to this organization last year and coming this year and they called me to the big leagues and gave me a chance to stay here and finish the season here. I think this is the best year I’ve had in my life.”
The Sox have six games remaining but Rodriguez will only watch. Counting his eight starts at Triple A, Rodriguez has thrown 170 innings this season, 25 more than his previous career high. The Sox will shut him down to protect against overuse.
Rodriguez made only four starts this month, the Red Sox playing it cautious with a pitcher who will figure heavily into their plans next season.
Once Rodriguez finished the sixth inning, he was done. Lovullo was not going to budge, turning down the pitcher’s request to keep going.
“We won’t have the same conversation next year. He’s going to be basically wide open and moving in a very good direction,” Lovullo said.
Depending on what moves president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski makes during the winter, Rodriguez could land in one of the top spots of the rotation.
Rodriguez allowed a run in the first inning then shut the Yankees down. He worked out of a second-inning jam by striking out Alex Rodriguez to leave the bases loaded. E-Rod beat A-Rod with a 96-m.p.h. fastball.
In four starts against the Yankees, Rodriguez was 3-1 with a 2.22 ERA.
“Guy’s a stud,” teammate Henry Owens said.
Lovullo marvels at Rodriguez’s ability to step back and make his best pitch to escape a jam.
“That’s part of his maturity,” Lovullo said. “For me, it’s very rare. You don’t see guys do it until they’re almost 30 years old sometimes.”
Travis Shaw and Deven Marrero, two other rookies, hit home runs for the Red Sox. Jackie Bradley Jr., another young player on the rise, homered and made two terrific catches in left field.
The Red Sox have won four straight to improve to 76-80 with six games remaining, though they were officially eliminated from playoff contention with Houston’s win Monday night.
The Sox are tied for third place in the American League East with the Orioles. Red Sox pitchers have allowed one run over the last four games.
The Yankees are five games behind Toronto in the division with six games remaining but remain in control of a wild-card playoff berth.
The Sox collected 10 hits against six Yankees pitchers. Shaw was 3 for 4 and Xander Bogaerts 2 for 4 to raise his batting average to .325.
Yankees starter Ivan Nova (6-10) allowed four runs on seven hits over seven innings. Bogaerts doubled and scored on Shaw’s line-drive home run to right field in the sixth inning, the ball sailing out in a blink.
It was the 12th home run for Shaw, the fourth on the road.
“Two outs, looking for something I could drive to the outfield,” said Shaw, who went after a first-pitch fastball.
Shaw was hitless in 15 at-bats in his previous four games, the product of too much movement in his swing.
“Too jumpy,” he said.
Not only did Lovullo stick with Shaw, he hit him fourth with David Ortiz getting a night off. “It means a lot. A lot of times you need to work through it and you need to learn how to work through it,” Shaw said.
In the seventh inning, Blake Swihart singled and scored when Bradley lined an opposite-field home run to left field, just over the fence. Bradley has 10 home runs and 42 RBIs in 68 games.
Marrero hit his first career homer in the ninth inning.
Bradley helped Rodriguez out twice with stellar plays in left field.
He took extra bases away from Chase Headley in the third inning, racing back on a ball hit over his head to make a catch at the wall. In the sixth inning, Bradley ranged to his right and made a leaping catch of a line drive off the bat of John Ryan Murphy.
Murphy jogged into second base and called time, convinced he had a double. Umpire Tim Welke gave him the bad news.
“That’s pretty funny,” Bradley said. “I’m sorry I had to do it to him.”