The Red Sox insist Eduardo Rodriguez isn’t the same pitcher who gave up 12 runs in two starts against the Astros in the regular season.
And he says he isn’t the same guy who faced them in his playoff debut four years ago, either.
“A couple of years ago, if I was in this position, I had a lot of pressure. But now I just take every game as a game,” he said on Sunday after being picked to start for Boston in Game 3 of the AL Championship Series against Houston.
“You have to go out there and think it’s a regular game,” he said. “That’s the way I see it all the time now: go out there and do my job and don’t think too much. That’s the best way to take the pressure away from your mind.”
Red Sox manager Alex Cora selected the 28-year-old left-hander to face Houston’s Jose Urquidy after delaying the announcement until Sunday afternoon.
Boston righty Nick Pivetta will be available for Game 4 – or the bullpen, if necessary. Pivetta was 9-8 with a 4.53 ERA in the regular season but gave the Red Sox four scoreless innings in the 13-inning Game 3 ALDS victory over the Rays.
“If we stay away from Nick, most likely Nick is going to start Game 4,” Cora said. “But if we feel like we should use him, we will.”
Rodriguez was 13-9 with a 4.74 ERA this season after missing all of last year due to coronavirus-related heart disease. He is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA this post-season, with two starts against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Division Series; he allowed two runs while getting five outs in Game 1, then pitched five innings and allowed two runs on three hits in Boston’s Game 4 clincher.
Rodriguez faced the Astros in his first career post-season appearance, giving up two runs while failing to record an out in Game 2 of the 2017 ALDS. He also made two scoreless appearances against them in the ALCS in 2018, when Boston went on to win the World Series.
Rodriguez also faced Houston twice during this regular season, allowing a .351 batting average and six runs in each game. Cora said things were different then, when Rodriguez was still working on his changeup and sinker.
“We all struggled against them during the season,” Cora said. “The pitcher that we have now compared to who he was when we went there and then he pitched here, it’s a lot different.”
The Astros will be relying on Urquidy, who was 8-3 with a 3.62 ERA in 20 starts this season, when he made the opening day roster for the first time but missed two months with a right shoulder injury.
Zack Greinke, who pitched out of the bullpen in the Division Series but hasn’t appeared in the ALCS yet, could be an option in Game 4.
Framber Valdez, a 24-year-old righty, is a possible starter for Game 5.
Urquidy is 26 but already has eight post-season appearances, and Baker said of his young pitchers: “We’ll see if they rise to the occasion or not.
“They’ve done it in the past,” he said. “Jose, I think he was a little rookie pitching in the World Series, and he is a very calm, cool, very mature dude, and so if anybody can handle it like Jose, we feel he can handle it.”
The Astros won the opener of the best-of-seven series, then Boston won Game 2 in Houston on Saturday when it hit grand slams in each of the first two innings. Astros starter Luis Garcia, who gave up J.D. Martinez’s homer to make it 4-0, left in the second inning with right knee discomfort.
Baker said on Sunday he would not be removing Garcia from the post-season roster.
“He is feeling a lot better,” the Astros manager said. “He had a bullpen session today and made some adjustments, and he is doing pretty good.”
Baker also said centrefielder Jake Meyers, who injured his left shoulder crashing into the wall trying to make a catch in Game 4 of the ALDS, could play in Game 3 after sitting out the first two games of this series.