Going into his start against the Philadelphia Phillies back on June 24th, Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez said he wanted to see 24-year-old right-hander Jefry Rodriguez try to be more efficient on the mound.
“He’s got electric stuff, he really does,” Martinez explained. “What I’d like to see improve is pitch efficiency, that’s the key, and if he can do that — if we can get six inning outs of him, we’ll be in great shape.
“But he needs to throw strike one, he needs to be consistent with his fastball and we’ll go from there.”
Rodriguez gave up five hits and three walks in that outing, allowing four runs total in four innings of work on the mound in Nationals Park.
“He’s got good stuff, he really does,” Martinez reiterated after the outing. “When he learns how to throw strike one, get ahead, and finish, he’s going to help us win a lot of games.”
Rodriguez struggled to put batters away again tonight, in the series opener with the Pirates in Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, and the Bucs’ hitters made him pay, scoring six runs in the first two innings and making the righty throw a ton of pitches in those frames, 43 total after two, and he was up to 73 after three, though he held the home team to those six runs through five as the Nationals chipped away at the lead, getting to 6-3 after five and a half.
Jefry Rodriguez’s Line: 5.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 4 Ks, 1 HR, 90 P, 58 S, 5/3 GO/FO.
That was as close as the Nationals were able to get, however, as they dropped the first of three with Pirates.
In those first two innings, Corey Dickerson singled on an 0-2 pitch after Rodriguez got up on the leadoff hitter, Starling Marte doubled on a 1-0 fastball, and Gregory Polanco drove two runs in with a single on a 2-2 changeup. Colin Moran doubled in the third run on a 1-0 fastball.
A leadoff walk to Max Moroff in the second came in an at bat that started 0-2, and an RBI triple by Dickerson came on a 1-2 curve that was up over the plate. Polanco’s two-run HR came on a first-pitch fastball, knee high and center-cut.
Rodriguez tossed three scoreless after that, but was done after throwing 90 pitches in five innings.
“The first inning they just hit him, and you can’t do nothing about that and then he settled down a little bit and they scored a couple more and we just fell behind,” Martinez said.
“We scratched and clawed there, but couldn’t make up those runs.”
With Matt Wieters behind the plate with Rodriguez for the first time, he threw 19 changeups total on the night, one more than he threw in his previous appearances and 14 2⁄3 IP, and he got 13 swings, and four swinging strikes with the pitch, as well as nine strikes that were not put in play.
He talked after the start against the Phillies about working the pitch into the mix more often to give himself another weapon.
“I’ve got to get better at it and use it more,” Rodriguez said, “that’s why I was trying to use it tonight a lot more often because I have to use it a lot more.”
He said tonight that he’s learning the difference between Double-A, where he enjoyed some success early this season (3.31 ERA in 68 IP) and the majors (6.86 ERA after tonight).
“The biggest difference I notice is just a small mistake here, they make you pay for it,” he told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.
“In Double-A, sometimes you can get away with it. Locating a pitch, you can stay out of it. But here, they let you know.”
If you’re looking for positives from the outing, Wieters calling for it and Rodriguez throwing it more often is something, and he settled in with three scoreless over the last three innings on the mound. He’s given up 15 runs on 21 hits in 19 2⁄3 innings, however, and which pitcher the Nationals turn to next time they need a start will be interesting to watch, since as some, noted after the game, Rodriguez seems a likely a candidate for a return to Triple-A when/if the Nationals do bring up an extra reliever tomorrow as Martinez hinted after the game they might.