K-Rod on struggle in ninth: “It’s quite embarrassing”

Give Francisco Rodriguez credit: He’s not going to pretend he’s not struggling. He’s not going to pretend that the end result is all that matters for him. And after what had been a 3-0 lead he inherited in the ninth became a 3-2 win he finished off with the tying and winning runs on base, he wasn’t going to keep his self-criticism to, well, himself.

“You have to be able to make pitches early in the count and try to put hitters away quick. I’m totally pitching the opposite,” he said Wednesday night. “Even though I still got the job done, it’s quite embarrassing. Simple as that. I have to pitch a lot better now, just get first-pitch strikes and put hitters away. Stop messing around.”

The three-run lead became a one-run lead on back-to-back homers with one out, both on second pitches. Alex Gordon turned on a fastball and sent it out to right-center. Two pitches later, Salvador Perez did the same on a changeup, sending it deep to left-center.

It marked just the fourth two-homer outing for Rodriguez in 866 career appearances. None of the previous three, however, had come in a save situation. The only one that changed a result was his previous on Sept. 9, 2014, and he entered that contest in a tie game.

More frustrating for him, though, seemed to be the back-to-back two-out walks that followed. He hadn’t walked multiple batters in a save situation since June 8, 2014, and that came in a four-out performance.

Rodriguez had a 2-2 count on Jarrod Dyson before trying to get him to chase a fastball. With the count full, he threw a changeup in the dirt that put Dyson on. Rodriguez got ahead of Alcides Escobar with a strike, but the curveball gave Dyson an easy pitch on which to steal second base. After missing with a curveball to run the count even, Rodriguez threw three consecutive fastballs out of the zone, putting Escobar on the open base and bringing up Mike Moustakas with a chance to win it on an extra-base hit.

At that point, it was Rodriguez’s inning to finish, one way or the other. Nobody was warming up, though manager Brad Ausmus said the rising pitch count became a concern.

Rodriguez fell behind on a 2-1 count on Moustakas, who fouled off a changeup to run the count even. On his 29th and final pitch, Rodriguez went back to the changeup, which Moustakas went after and missed to end it.

It was a win. And for Rodriguez, it was his 390th save, tying him with Dennis Eckersley for sixth in Major League history. But Rodriguez couldn’t get too charged up about it.

“It’s just giving way too much credit to the hitters, second-guessing myself,” Rodriguez said. “Walking the tying and go-ahead run is something that you as closer cannot let happen. You cannot do it. Simple as that. So I’ve just got to make some adjustments quick and start pitching better.”

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