Eduardo Rodriguez is giving the Detroit Tigers something they haven't had since Justin Verlander was traded to the Houston Astros in 2017: a bona fide ace they can rely upon every fifth game
Rodriguez has been dominant over his past six starts, and he will try to keep that streak going when the Tigers face the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday afternoon
In those six starts spanning 41 2/3 innings, Rodriguez has allowed just two runs and 22 hits. He has walked six and struck out 41.
He will carry a streak of 18 2/3 scoreless innings into his matchup with the Pirates
"For me, just keep putting up zeros on the board," Rodriguez said. "I don't think about how many games I've been pitching good. Just keep doing it."
Rodriguez (4-2, 1.57 ERA) signed a five-year, $77 million contract with the Tigers as a free agent prior to last season. His first year in the organization was essentially a washout. He went 5-5 with a 4.05 ERA in 17 starts and missed a chunk of the season due to personal issues
The 30-year-old left-hander has relied mainly on a mixture of fastballs, cutters and changeups to get soft contact and strikeouts.
"The hardest thing to do at this level is to continue positive performance, especially when you are being talked about," Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's getting some recognition now. Everybody is talking to him, but he continues to go out with a very strong mindset. That, to me, is encouraging."
In his latest outing, Rodriguez limited the Cleveland Guardians to four hits and struck out eight in seven innings on May 10. Rodriguez has only faced the Pirates once in his career, when he gave up three runs (two earned) on four hits and four walks while striking out eight in 5 1/3 innings on April 13, 2017
Rodriguez will be opposed on Wednesday by 43-year-old left-hander Rich Hill (3-3, 4.35 ERA). After winning his last three starts in April, Hill is 0-1 with a no-decision in two May outings.
He lasted just 3 2/3 innings at Colorado on May 10, though he gave up only three runs (one earned) and four hits. The unearned runs were caused by his own miscue, as he bobbled a routine grounder that led to a three-run inning.
"It cost us the game. Once again, it falls on me," Hill said. "Going to sit on this one for the next five days and get ready for the next one. Frustration is definitely there with that. Very easy ground ball. I should have been able to execute it and didn't."
Hill has made 19 career appearances (six starts) against the Tigers, going 4-0 with a 4.19 ERA
He was signed to a one-year, $8 million contract during the offseason to mentor a mostly green staff. He also is providing stability to the rotation.
"He's done a really good job," Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said on Tuesday. "He goes out and gives you really solid outings. It's not going to (blow) you away with the stuff, but his feel for pitching and the different angles, it keeps hitters off balance."
Pittsburgh's batters were off-balance again on Tuesday. The Pirates were blanked in the series opener, 4-0. They have scored just 22 runs in the past 14 games, going 2-12 in that stretch
"Right now, we're just not having very consistent at-bats," Shelton said. "There's not one thing you can say that kind of opens it up. It's just something we have to take upon ourselves to have more consistent and more competitive at-bats."
--Field Level Media