Wandy Rodriguez’s last outing before Sunday was not one to remember.
In fact, having given up seven earned runs in less than four innings, you might even say it was the worst start of his Pittsbugh Pirates career, ranking up there in the eight-year veteran’s career-worsts. So when he was slated to face the Washington Nationals for the end of a weekend set, there were naturally some hesitation as to just how well he’d do.
The Pirates got both good and bad news on that front, as the team wound up taking a 6-2 loss to fall to 17-14.
On the other hand, most of those were not Rodriguez’s doing.
In fact, the lefty rebounded nicely from his last outing with a textbook quality start, allowing three runs on six hits and a walk, while striking out seven. The command was definitely something that Pittsburgh wanted to see after two straight multi-walk games, and he was his steady, effective self for much of the afternoon.
That said, the reason why the 34-year old didn’t come out in line for the win was the same reason why he’s had trouble in his recent starts — namely, the long ball.
Now, it’s not as though things got as bad as it did in his last two starts with five homers combined, but the majority of the damage done to Rodriguez came off of a two-run home run off the bat of Danny Espinosa in the fourth that gave the Nats a lead they would not relinquish.
So despite currently owning an otherwise excellent 1.09 WHIP and .218 BAA, along with a career-best 3.13 K/BB, the southpaw’s ERA and FIP both hovers above the 4.00 mark thanks to the uncharacteristic 1.72 HR/9 that he’s allowed in his 31.1 innings thus far.
Could it be just luck? The 18.2 percent HR/FB rate doesn’t look sustainable, and Rodriguez has actually been harder to hit than ever outside of that department (career-low 16.3 percent line drive rate, career-high 11.4 percent infield hits) … so maybe there is something that the baseball gods are messing with here.
If and when that normalizes, it should be smooth sailing for Wandy and the Bucs from that point on — and they’ll need it too, if they want to stay in the NL Central race.