The Red Sox lost a winnable game Sunday in Oakland, but the frustrating 1-0 defeat did have its bright spot.
Namely, Eduardo Rodriguez.
When Rodriguez pulled himself the night before his Aug. 21 start against Detroit, saying the hamstring he'd pulled four days earlier after four no-hit innings in Baltimore wasn't sufficiently healed, a lot came into question with the lefty.
The Sox, in the heat of a tight playoff struggle, needed him to pitch. His late decision forced them to use the less-than-impressive Henry Owens, resulting in a 10-5 loss. Then, when Rodriguez finally returned -- Aug. 28 against Kansas City -- he struggled (5 1/3 innings, 4 hits, 4 walks, 5 runs allowed), raising doubts, again, about his ability to pitch through the sort of discomfort most players deal with.
His mental toughness came into question . . . not only with fans or the media, but with John Farrell, who was clearly upset with the lefty’s last-minute decision to skip a start.
But Rodriguez put at least some of those frustrations to rest Sunday with a dominant performance against the admittedly less-than-stellar A's, allowing only a tainted infield single after 7 2/3 no-hit innings. He departed after eight and wasn't involved in the eventual decision.
He was a bright spot in an otherwise dark afternoon for Boston.
"In the bigger picture, [Rodriguez’s] start today is extremely important to us as we continue to build out this rotation going into the final three, four weeks here,” said Farrell.
The way Farrell worded it further adds to the belief that Rodriguez’s role down the stretch was in question. With Steven Wright sidelined indefintely and Clay Buchholz proving to have some value in the bullpen, it's critical that Rodriguez show he can be either the third or fourth starter come playoff time.
And Sunday -- while the A's aren't exactly playoff-caliber -- he did.