Nathan Eovaldi was cruising through six shutout innings against the Yankees before Cora pulled him. He had only thrown 83 pitches, leaving us to wonder if Eovaldi should have been allowed to continue a bit longer.
That decision was magnified when Brandon Workman walked two of the three batters he faced to begin the seventh inning, followed by Ryan Brasier surrendering the game-winning three-run homer to Neil Walker.
Boston’s beat writers had questions about the manager’s strategy after the game. Cora had answers, as reported by WEEI’s Rob Bradford.
"“We got to take care of him,” Cora responded when asked why he didn’t stick with Eovaldi. “He hadn’t pitched in a while. It was something coming in, I had an idea, we wanted six. That was a stressful inning, that sixth inning.”"
Eovaldi tossed 20 pitches in the sixth inning, working around a leadoff double and a hit batter to escape a jam with the winning run on base. That’s a lot of high-stress pitches, which take more of a toll than pitches thrown in a clean inning.
While the pitch count seems low for a typical starter, keep in mind that this was Eovaldi’s first start since rejoining the rotation. His last appearance came out of the bullpen over a week ago. Eovaldi also hasn’t carried a heavy workload since joining the Red Sox, topping out at the 93 pitches he threw against the Yankees in his first start after he was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays at the deadline. 83 pitches equal about his average outing with Boston.
The low pitch counts are by design. Eovaldi has been solid the first two times through the order but opposing lineups have battered him to the tune of a .288 average and .879 OPS when he faces hitters for the third time in a game. The top of the Yankees lineup stepped to the plate for a third time in the sixth inning, which by no coincidence was Eovaldi’s most difficult frame.
No matter how well he’s pitching, removing him at that stage of the game is typically wise.