Boston Red Sox Report Cards: Right-handed pitcher Nathan Eovaldi
The BoSox Injection team grades the 2018 season for each member of the Boston Red Sox. Up next is right-handed pitcher Nathan Eovaldi.
Not a single person could have guessed before the season started, that Nathan Eovaldi would end up being a World Series hero for the Boston Red Sox. And yet, that’s exactly what happened.
Eovaldi, returning from an elbow injury that had kept him out of baseball for over a year, came over to the Red Sox from the Tampa Bay Rays in a trade prior to the July 31 deadline. In his first start with his new team, Eovaldi spun seven scoreless innings against the Minnesota Twins, and immediately won the hearts of Red Sox fans everywhere. He followed that up with eight shutout innings against the New York Yankees, which propelled him to hero status almost immediately.
After that start, however, Eovaldi faltered. He surrendered three or more earned runs in five of his final six August starts, and struggled to recapture the magic he’d found in his first two starts with Boston, and indeed in his time with the Rays prior to the trade.
In September, as the season drew to its close and the playoffs approached, Eovaldi began to look more like himself. He still struggled at times with his pitch counts but allowed just three earned runs across 20 innings in the season’s final month. It looked, once again, as though he might be a key postseason contributor. As it turned out, his importance defied all expectations.
All in all, Eovaldi pitched 22.1 innings in October. He made two starts, including a seven-innings, one-run masterpiece against the Yankees. Even so, Eovaldi truly shone when called out of the bullpen in the World Series.
We all remember Game 3. That 18-inning grind won’t soon be forgotten, and Eovaldi will forever be known for what he did in that game. Starting pitcher Rick Porcello lasted just 4.2 innings, and it looked like manager Alex Cora would have to lean heavily on an already tired bullpen. And though Eovaldi was the eighth reliever to enter the game, his effort may have saved the series.
Eovaldi, who had also appeared in Games 1 and 2, put together one of the most heroic relief appearances ever. He threw 97 pitches, many of them in the triple digits, over the game’s final six innings. Though he eventually took the loss, he prevented what might otherwise have been a disastrous day for the bullpen and gave the team something more to rally around.
Eovaldi finished the regular season with a 3.81 ERA, a 6-7 record, and 101 strikeouts, but nobody will remember that after what he accomplished in October. Whether or not he returns to the Red Sox (he absolutely shout), he’s earned a permanent place in Boston sports lore, and future conversations about his career will always include that game three.
Though uneven in the regular season, Eovaldi was at his best when it mattered most, and his best was as good as we’ve ever seen. He wasn’t perfect, but he earns an A thanks to his final, unbelievable effort.
Looking Ahead to 2019
If there’s any downside to Eovaldi’s postseason dominance, it’s that his stock rose tremendously. He’s going to get paid, and he’s earned it. If the Red Sox can’t or don’t offer him what other teams might, then he’s likely gone. However, the team wants him back, and there’s reason to believe he likes playing in Boston. If he does return, he’ll slot in behind Chris Sale and David Price as the third starter.