E-Rod (7 scoreless IP) ‘stepped up and delivered a gem’

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — As the 2013 movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” winds down, there’s a scene in which Leonardo DiCaprio’s lead character walks into the brokerage firm he’s supposedly leaving as part of a legal settlement. Midway through his farewell speech to employees, he declares he’s not leaving, in no uncertain terms.

A couple of Tigers teammates playfully recited that line to Eduardo Rodriguez when they returned to Comerica Park last Friday for the first time since he exercised his no-trade rights on Aug. 1 just before the Trade Deadline to stay in Detroit. It’s all in fun, but it’s also a sign that there’s no awkwardness in the Tigers’ clubhouse, where there has been solid chemistry throughout a frustrating stretch.

If there was supposed to be any awkwardness among fans when Rodriguez took the mound at Comerica Park on Tuesday for the first time since the Deadline, there was no sign of that, either. As the left-hander walked off the mound and back to the dugout after his season-high-tying 102nd and final pitch, having struck out Michael A. Taylor to complete seven scoreless innings, fans rose for a standing ovation.

There was no talk about prospects, farm system rankings or contract opt-outs as Rodriguez shut down the Twins for a 6-0 victory that improved him to 4-0 over his past five starts. There was just an appreciation for a pitcher who’s dealing, not someone who was almost dealt.

“When you’re pitching good, you’re going to get that,” Rodriguez said. “I like the way that the fans treat me here, all the time since I got here. I really appreciate it.”

Manager A.J. Hinch could well have joined in the ovation. Detroit held off on bringing up fresh pitchers for a tired bullpen after Monday’s 9-3 loss in the hope that Rodriguez could give its relievers a break with a deep outing. He arguably overperformed.

“I think the best part of Eduardo today was anchoring the staff when he saw us get beat up a little bit yesterday,” Hinch said. “He stepped up and delivered a gem. I think that part of it is the top-of-the-rotation guy that we like. It’s why we love when he’s out there, and we feel good about our chances to win when he’s the starting pitcher.”

Rodriguez tossed seven scoreless innings for the fifth time this season, the most by a Tigers starter since Justin Verlander had that many in 2013. If Rodriguez can do it again — not a guarantee, considering he hadn’t done it since May 10 — he’ll match Verlander’s total from his American League MVP season of 2011. Rodriguez’s latest star turn dropped his season ERA to 2.75, which would match the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole for second lowest among AL starters and fourth lowest in the Majors if Rodriguez had enough innings to qualify. His 1.05 WHIP would rank in the AL’s top five, while his .218 batting average allowed would rank just outside of it.

If Rodriguez keeps racking up innings like this, he could well get back into qualifying for leaderboards. But even if he doesn’t, there’s an appreciation for what he’s doing, and the fact that he’s doing it here on a team that seems to raise its game behind him when he’s on the mound.

“I think he’s kind of coming into it in the season,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s probably feeling pretty strong right now, based on what we saw today.”

What made Rodriguez’s latest gem so impressive wasn’t that he did it after the Trade Deadline, or that he shut down the AL Central leaders. It’s that he basically did so with just two pitches. With Rodriguez’s movement pitches sputtering, he threw fastballs or changeups for 87 of his 102 pitches. The Twins swung and missed on eight fastballs — including Taylor’s aforementioned whiff — and took 12 more for called strikes, including strikeouts to end the fourth and fifth innings. The changeup wasn’t nasty in itself, but it set up the fastball.

“It’s just a sneaky fastball,” Twins shortstop Carlos Correa said. “Nice and easy delivery. It gets there a lot faster than you think. He’s a pretty solid pitcher.”

Added Baldelli: “There’s not that many pitchers in the league that can just stand up there and just fire fastballs in the zone and get swings that are just not on the ball. That’s what he did.”

There will be time to worry about Rodriguez’s situation and the long-term implications for the Tigers. That time wasn’t Tuesday night.

Articles You May Like

Tigers 7, Jays 3: Rename it the Rogers Center
Days of Roar: Christmas in July for Detroit Tigers with Bryce Rainer in MLB draft
Did Detroit Tigers win 2024 MLB Draft with high school picks?
Max Clark and Kevin McGonigle promoted to High-A West Michigan
Tigers Place Reese Olson On Injured List, Select Bligh Madris

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *