All Dereck Rodriguez could do was stand on the mound, put his hands on his knees, shake his head and smile.
A third-inning fly ball to deep center by hung up just long enough for Kevin Pillar to vault off his left foot, and hang on the top of the wall with his right arm. He’d over-estimated how far it would travel. The drive came up short, but Pillar reached back into the field of play and turned what would have been rookie Nick Senzel’s first big league homer into an inning-ending fly.
That was the San Francisco Giants’ lone highlight on a night where they couldn’t conjure up the magic they did in Friday’s comeback, losing 9-2 to the Cincinnati Reds in Rodriguez’s second straight sub-par outing.
After Rodriguez was shelled for six runs (four earned) on seven hits in three innings against the New York Yankees last week, the second-year righty said, “We get to do this again in five days, that’s the great thing about this game.”
Saturday wasn’t so great. Rodriguez struggled to command his low-90s fastball against the Reds on Saturday, continually missing up in the zone, and he was punished for it.
With two outs in the first, Rodriguez gave up a double off the base of the wall to Jesse Winker, then a first-pitch RBI single to Yasiel Puig. The Giants got the run back in the top of the second with a Pillar single and a stolen base, then a single to right by Steven Duggar.
Then, with one out in the bottom of the second, Rodriguez just missed down on his eighth pitch to .194-hitting Jose Pedraza, putting one man on with one out, rather than no on and two outs.
Pitcher Tanner Roark lined a letter-high fastball — supposed to be down and away — for a single in a bunt situation.
Catcher Tucker Barnhart sent a line drive at first baseman Brandon Belt, who was only able to knock it down and get a force out at second, allowing a run to score. A walk to Joey Votto and a homer by Eugenio Suarez put Cincinnati up 5-1.
In the fourth, he allowed another homer, this one to catcher Tucker Barnhart. It was the fifth of six runs the Reds had scored that came with two outs. It was another pitch mis-located by Rodriguez, as Posey set up away, and Rodriguez delivered the pitch middle-up. Rodriguez gave up back-to-back homers in the fifth, a two-run shot on a 2-0 belt-high changeup to Derek Dietrich and then an 0-1 fastball middle-middle to Nick Senzel.
In the midst of a series that’s expected to stretch the pitching staff — two more games in the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark and then three games at mile-high Colorado — Rodriguez turned in arguably his worst outing as a Major Leaguer, coming just five days after the game that previously held that title.
After 83 pitches, Rodriguez gave way in the bottom of the sixth to newly-recalled switch pitcher Pat Venditte, called up to give a beleaguered bullpen some flexibility on Saturday morning. Venditte gave up a seventh-inning homer to Yasiel Puig, but otherwise deftly navigated the rest of the Reds lineup, throwing two innings allowing just that one hit, throwing to both right-handers and left-handers with great effect. That move went largely as planned. Rodriguez’s bounce-back? Not quite.