SAN DIEGO - Dereck Rodriguez has shrugged just about everything off in his first season in the big leagues. When asked about his mounting workload after Tuesday's win, he smiled and said it'll be a lot of fun to see how his body reacts. When told that he has been keeping company with the likes of Chris Sale and Zack Greinke the last six weeks, he paused and noted, "those are some good guys, I guess."
But there was one question Tuesday that got Rodriguez flowing. He has put himself in the Rookie of the Year conversation, perhaps right at the top of it, and when the topic came up Tuesday, he perked up.
"That's the one thing my dad never got," he said. "That'd be nice. He got everything else expect that."
Ivan Rodriguez, the Hall of Famer, finished fourth in the American League Rookie of the Year balloting in 1991. Seventeen years later, his son might be the front-runner to win it in the National League. Dereck allowed one run over seven innings Tuesday in a 3-2 Giants win, lowering his ERA to 2.59. Since June 24, the MLB ERA chart goes like this: Sale (0.23), Greinke (1.33), Rodriguez (1.49).
"I don't think about that stuff," Rodriguez said of his hot streak. "I go out there and try to put on a good performance."
They're piling up at this point, and Rodriguez is pulling away from other first-year NL pitchers. The greatest competition will come from the National League East, where three young hitters are breaking out. Miami's Brian Anderson has been a starter all year and has nine homers, 51 RBI, a .784 OPS and 2.6 Wins Above Replacement. Washington's Juan Soto, a 19-year-old budding superstar, has a .984 OPS and 13 homers, and has been one of the better stories in baseball this season. Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Braves gets plenty of attention, too, and one of the game's best prospects has 10 homers already. He certainly is talented enough to run away from the field down the stretch.
Rodriguez was a bit late to the race, but in 12 big-league appearances, he has had the look of an ace. His run of dominance started against the Padres on June 24 and he kept it going Tuesday after allowing a first-inning run. Rodriguez tied his career-high with seven innings and threw a career-high 112 pitches. He saved a team that wiped out the bullpen a night before.
Reyes Moronta, pitching a day after throwing two innings, blew the lead in the eighth and kept Rodriguez from his sixth win. But the team is 8-2 in his starts, thanks in large part to all the heavy lifting the rookie is doing in the early innings.
"We needed it," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He gives up a run in the first inning and he just piled up outs. We got him pretty far in his pitch count, he hasn't been there. He's just so reliable at going out and giving us quality starts."