The Dodgers needed their bullpen to get the final eight outs on Monday against the Cardinals and had to do so without Kenley Jansen, who was given a rare and well-deserved night off. For the final six outs they turned to Paco Rodriguez, who has proven as reliable as anyone in relief for the Dodgers this year.
Rodriguez was the first Dodger to record a save of two innings or more since Ramon Troncoso at Wrigley Field on May 28, 2009. Rodriguez was the first to do so with no runners reaching base since Eric Gagne on Aug. 15, 2004, also at Wrigley Field.
Runners on base have been foreign to Rodriguez, who has allowed 12 of his last 70 batters faced to reach base. He has allowed just two runs, one earned, over his last 26 appearances, covering 19⅔ innings.
On the season Rodriguez has a 2.25 ERA with two saves, and 44 strikeouts in 40 innings to go with just 11 unintentional walks.
From beating out Kevin Gregg for a bullpen spot in spring training, Rodriguez has been used in increasingly higher leverage situations. The eighth inning has seen his most work (54 batters faced), and Rodriguez in the eighth has a 1.76 ERA with opposing batters hitting .106/.204/.191 against him.
On the first day of spring training, general manager Ned Colletti was high on the second round pick out of Florida in the 2012 draft, who impressed in his cup of coffee last September.
"As I told (Paco) at the end of the season, he did great. But to be really good at this game you have to constantly adjust, because the people you are playing against are constantly adjusting too," Colletti said. "He's going to have to probably be a little different this year than he was last year, at least in thought process and execution, because someone might figure him out."
Rodriguez has definitely adjusted. He has increased use of his curve ball this season, throwing it 37.8% of the time per Pitch f/x on FanGraphs, with the deuce and his slider have become his two most effective pitches.
Left-handed batters are hitting .143/.221/.200 against the southpaw, with 30 strikeouts in 78 plate appearances. Right-handed batters haven't had it any better, hitting .133/.221/.183 against Rodriguez this season.
Rodriguez has thus far proven Colletti's words from February true.
"The kid is fearless," Colletti said. "He thinks he can get anybody out in any situation at any time."