The Boston Red Sox are entering the final weekend of the regular season with their backs against the wall.
After inexcusably dropping a series to the lowly Baltimore Orioles, Boston has very little margin of error remaining in its quest for a Wild Card bid.
The Red Sox will open a three-game series with the Washington Nationals tonight.
The only way for Boston to ensure that its season won’t end in three days is by sweeping this series with the Nationals.
Eduardo Rodriguez will get the series rolling for the Red Sox on Friday in his 31st start of the year.
Red Sox rotation vs. Nationals:
FRI: Eduardo Rodriguez
SUN: Chris Sale
Sets up Eovaldi for Game 163 or the Wild Card Game.
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) October 1, 2021
Rodriguez has had some important starts already this season, but none as big as this one.
Will he rise to the occasion?
Rodriguez Needs To Put His Frustrating Year Behind Him
It has been a rocky 2021 season for Rodriguez.
The lefty has an ugly 4.93 ERA, but when you consider his 3.35 FIP and .366 opponent BABIP, it’s easy to argue that he has been absurdly unlucky this season.
As frustrating as that can be for a pitcher, the 28-year-old has no choice but to leave that behind him.
For the Red Sox, it’s essentially a three-game season from this point forward.
The team may very well need to win all of its remaining games to crack the playoffs, and Rodriguez surely understands that.
He can salvage his entire year by helping the team extend its season.
Here’s some good news: Rodriguez, as strange as this is, has been much better on the road (4.22 ERA) than at home this season (5.95 ERA).
Tonight’s start is on the road in D.C.
The Nationals Are Going To Counter Rodriguez With One Of Their Best Young Pitchers
It won’t be an easy matchup for Rodriguez tonight.
While the Nationals are a last-place team, they have a decent offense, ranking 15th in MLB in runs per game.
Moreover, Washington is going to start Josh Rogers tonight, who is a very promising young pitcher.
The lefty has a 2.73 ERA over five starts this season.
He has allowed three runs or fewer in all of his outings so far this year.
Josh Rogers is a GAMER 😮 pic.twitter.com/0DO4987hgi
— Nationals on MASN (@masnNationals) September 22, 2021
The Nats have nothing to play for and nothing to lose, so there’s no pressure on Rogers to deliver tonight.
That could end up working against Boston.
It’ll be a battle of two southpaws, and it’ll be very interesting to see how the matchup unfolds.
Above all else, Rodriguez needs to enter his start tonight with a clear mind.
It’s a high-pressure outing for him, and he’s surely aware of the fact that all eyes are on going to be on him.
Plus, big games haven’t exactly been his friend in the past.
For example, he has a career 8.10 ERA in the postseason.
That’s also something that he’s likely aware of.
And on TOP of that, the guy is a free agent after the season ends.
This start could very well determine how his offseason unfolds.
It’s a tall task to stay focused, but he can’t let the narratives enter his head tonight.
There’s too much on the line.