BALTIMORE -- Even with a solid lead in the division as the season winds down -- four games over Toronto, five over Baltimore with just 11 to play -- the Red Sox aren't interested in discussing what now seems inevitable: The postseason.
Their qualifying for the playoffs seems assured now, even if they don't want to talk about it. And given that they don't want to acknowledge the games that are looming in October, they surely aren't interested in dissecting a possible postseason starting rotation.
But that's an issue hanging over their heads. Rick Porcello and David Price give the Red Sox a strong front two, but playoff series aren't won with two starting pitchers -- not easily, anyway.
The Sox are going to need at least one -- if not two -- starters to claim spots. Drew Pomeranz has damaged his chances with two poor starts in a row and the realization that perhaps his innings workload has caught up to him here in September.
Clay Buchholz? He's pitched far better in the second half than he did in the first, but his penchant for inconsistency is always worth noting.
So it was not without significance that on Tuesday night, Eduardo Rodriguez stepped forward to stake his claim.
Rodriguez didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning, and when he left with one out in the seventh, he had made a pretty compelling case for himself.
He mixed a mid-90s fastball with a killer changeup and occasional slider, navigating his way through a powerful Baltimore lineup in a cozy ballpark. Trouble lurked everywhere, but other than a solo homer to rookie Trey Mancini in the fifth and three other hits, Rodriguez was impressive.
The manager, loathe as he may be to acknowledge what's on the horizon, couldn't help but take notice. Farrell was asked how important it was for the Sox to have someone beyond Porcello and Price get going as the season draws to a close.
"It's extremely important," said Farrell. "Tonight was a major step forward for Eddie, regardless of what takes place (in the future). When you look at that kind of stuff, where he can get good major league hitters out, that's a strong ingredient as you go deeper into the season."
Rodriguez, predictably, wasn't about to say he was trying to impress anyone for the post-season.
"I'm just pitching," shrugged Rodrigurez. "If they give me a chance (in the post-season), I'll take it. I'll just pitch wherever they put me. This isn't fighting for a spot. We're just trying to keep pitching normal and get the team in the post-season.''
If there was a highlight to the start, it came in the sixth with the Sox clinging to a 2-1 lead. Chris Davis was on second and Mark Trumbo, only the A.L.'s leading home run hitter, was at the plate.
It took eight pitches, and three separate mound visits, but Rodriguez finally pulled the string on a nasty changeup that Trumbo swung through.
"Obviously, given the year's Trumbo's had," said Farrell, "the way he's handled lefthanded pitching, that's a moment Eddie can continue to grow from. A big moment for Eddie."
Maybe even an audition for October.