The score was 5-2 Boston. Chris Archer had just had a horrendous fifth inning, giving back a 2-0 lead. Evan Longoria reached in the sixth on a pop up that Boston third baseman Wil Middlebrooks misplayed and up stepped Sean Rodriguez. Normally, you’d say, “So what?” and, in the past, it would be a valid question. But this is not the same Sean Rodriguez of old. Every at-bat, you get the sense that something magical might happen and, in game two of the doubleheader against Boston, magic became his middle name.
In his first at-bat, Rodriguez doubled in the second and scored on a James Loney single off of lefty Felix Doubront. Rodriguez has been eating lefty pitching for lunch the past couple of years, and that was why he was in the line-up in the first place. But in the sixth, he stepped in the batter’s box for a rare at-bat against a righty in Junichi Tazawa. Rodriguez lived up to the tough assignment by slamming a home run to make the score 5-4 Boston.
In the eighth, still down a run, Rodriguez doubled again and Loney singled him in, now it was a tie game. A lesson to all guys-listen to your girlfriends. My girlfriend, Jennifer, is a big fan of Sean Rodriguez. She has extolled his virtues to me for the last few years. Granted, her reasons for latching onto him would make Bill James rethink Sabermetrics, but she has been right this season. Through the first month of the season, Sean Rodriguez leads the Tampa Bay Rays with four home runs.
Let’s back up a little though. At the beginning of the season, the writing was on the wall. In the offseason, the Rays acquired Logan Forsythe from the San Diego Padres. Forsythe plays multiple positions, hits lefties well like Rodriguez, and makes less money than Rodriguez does. Rodriguez’s time with the Rays seemed limited.
Coming into this season, Rodriguez’s career high in home runs was nine in 343 at-bats. This year he has four in 34 at-bats. Rodriguez’s best slugging percent in a full season is .397. After game two of the doubleheader, you might mistake Sean for Alex Rodriguez, as his slugging percentage is a robust .676. Maybe, he is finally taping into the raw power that he impressed everyone with in Triple-A, where he hit a combined 51 bombs in 2008 and ’09.
Ultimately, it remains to be seen how Sean Rodriguez’s season plays out, whether this string is just a hot streak or not. Rodriguez is hitting just .235, and an unsustainable seven of his eight hits have gone for extra bases. But the power increase is encouraging, and if he can keep hitting for power against lefties he is going to be a valuable piece of this Rays ballclub. Whatever the case, wherever this power surge may be coming from, Rays’ management and fans have to be excited about what he is doing.
Guess you were right, Jennifer.