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Orioles make Red Sox rookie Eduardo Rodriguez stretch, stumble

BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox rookie Eduardo Rodriguez made it look easy, until he didn't.

Contrast? How about 10 straight outs, including five on strikes, to open the game, then seven straight hits, including a two-run home run by Matt Wieters, that produced six Baltimore Orioles runs and ended Rodriguez's afternoon in the fourth inning.

Head-spinning, no?

"First three innings, I threw the ball where I wanted," Rodriguez said after Boston's 8-6 loss to the Orioles Thursday afternoon before a sellout crowd of 37,706 in Fenway Park.

But in the fourth, after Manny Machado popped out to open the inning, Chris Parmelee hit an 0-and-2 slider off the left-center field wall for a double, putting Rodriguez in the stretch for the first time. And the wheels were about to come off.

Nolan Reimold hit an 0-and-1 changeup to the left of the mound. Rodriguez threw low and late on what was ruled an infield hit, and Parmelee scored on the pitcher's throwing error.

Rodriguez fell behind Wieters 2-and-0, threw him a fastball over the plate, and Wieters launched it over the visitors' bullpen. Rodriguez fell behind again, 2-and-0, to Delmon Young, and he lined a single. He broke Chris Davis' bat with a 2-and-2 slider, but Davis was able to lift the ball into center for another hit. Rodriguez ran the count full to J.J. Hardy, threw him a slider, and Hardy whacked it off the wall in left for a two-run double. Steve Pearce hit an 0-2 fastball for a single, and Ryan Flaherty hit a 1-and-1 slider for a sacrifice fly.

Fastball, slider, changeup. The Orioles hit them all, the same pitches Rodriguez used to get them out in the first three innings.

"He's cruising along, was dominant, a number of swings and misses," manager John Farrell said afterward. "He gets in the stretch, they make a little bit of an adjustment. [He was] not commanding the baseball when he got in the stretch. He fell behind in counts, Wieters put a good swing on the ball, seven consecutive hits where he couldn't get an out.

"More than anything, [it was] when he switched to the stretch."

Rodriguez has now made six starts. Four have been beauties, in which he has gone at least six innings each time and allowed no more than one run in any of the outings.

Thursday afternoon started out the same way, but ended up reminiscent of his start here against Toronto 11 days ago, in which he was charged with nine runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings.

There's a learning curve here for the 22-year-old Venezuelan -- his hero, Johan Santana, was knocked out in the fourth inning in both the second and third starts of his big-league career. But with the Sox settled at the bottom of the AL East, nine games behind Tampa Bay and seven games behind Toronto and Baltimore -- which are now in a virtual tie for fourth place -- much is expected of Rodriguez every time out. Folks just might have to tamp down expectations.