BOSTON -- Three more wins and Eduardo Rodriguez finishes the season with . . . 20?!?
The Red Sox couldn't have asked for a better best-case-scenario out of their fifth starter. They've long pushed him to maintain his consistency from start to start and to pitch deeper into games. In 2019, at age 26, he is finally figuring it all out, which means a legitimate milestone is within reach.
On Wednesday, E-Rod shut out the thundering Twins offense for seven innings in a 6-2 victory that gives him 17 wins on the season. Reaching the 20 threshold won't be easy. If he stays on his regular turn, he'll make four starts the rest of the way: at home vs. the Yankees this weekend, at Philadelphia, at Tampa, and at Texas.
"For me, it's not important for right now to win 20 games," Rodriguez said. "For me, it's more important to give the team a chance to make the postseason. That's our goal as a team. Make it to the postseason. If 20 wins come or not, I'm just going to be happy if we make it to the playoffs."
With that goal entirely out of the team's hands — the only contender left the Red Sox play is Tampa — Rodriguez may have to settle for individual glory, but at least he is earning it.
He leads the American League in starts (29) and he has an outside shot of reaching 200 innings and 200 strikeouts, each for the first time in his career, if he can average seven innings and eight K's over his final four appearances.
He's 17-5 with a career-best 3.81 ERA, and he has really come on of late, with an 11-1 record in his last 16 starts. He has thrown at least seven shutout innings in three of his last four turns.
In a season that has seen starters Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, and Nathan Eovaldi limited by either injury, ineffectiveness, or both, Rodriguez has been the one bright spot in an otherwise dismal rotation.
"Like I've been saying all along, he didn't have to be David or Chris or Rick or Nate," said manager Alex Cora. "Eduardo Rodriguez is a good pitcher and he has good stuff and we saw that last year."
If Rodriguez can win 20, he'll join a select group in recent Red Sox history. Since 1978, when a young Dennis Eckersley turned the trick, only six other starters have reached the milestone: Porcello, Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Pedro Martinez (twice), and Roger Clemens (three times). Porcello is the only pitcher on that list never to make an All-Star team, but he won the Cy Young award in 2016.
That suggests even better things lay ahead for E-Rod, who doesn't even turn 27 until April.
"Potential is great," Cora said. "We know that. It's like, that's great, but there are a lot of people that just stay with that and they don't take the next step and he took the challenge, made some adjustments and now he's doing what he's doing."
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