Nathan Eovaldi rewards Red Sox’ trust on Opening Day
Opening Day has come and gone and I’ll admit this one felt different. The Red Sox did everything they could to make it feel like a normal night at the park. The piped-in crowd noise was on point, the cutouts on the Green Monster looked real from a distance, and they beat the hell out of the Orioles. But something was still amiss. One thing that didn’t feel off though was the right arm of Nathan Eovaldi.
Boston’s resident fireballer got the nod for Opening Day when it was learned that Eduardo Rodriguez would miss the beginning of the season due to a positive COVID test. Some were skeptical that the oft-injured righty could live up to the bill. After a strong spring training and even better summer camp, it was clear that Eovaldi was ready to rock in 2020.
To put things into perspective, the very first pitch he threw of the 2020 season clocked in at 100mph. If that doesn’t say “Yeah, I’m feelin’ it,” then I don’t know what does. It also helps that he got some serious run support as the Red Sox would post 10 runs before his night would finish in the sixth inning.
“The slider was kind of blending in with the cutter a little bit early on,” Eovaldi said. “I was throwing more sliders early. I was getting ahead, and I was able to get outs with the cutter. So I kept going with it. I was able to run the ball in, get some kind of quick outs, double-play balls when I needed it.”
We knew the offense wouldn’t be an issue this season and they made sure to hammer that point home last night. Hell, even the bullpen was strong after Eovaldi left, a total success of a night for Boston. But we’re here to talk about that bad dude from Texas that embarrassed the Orioles for much of the night, showing little weakness to no on the mound.
Let’s look back at his line for the night, 6IP/5H/1ER/1BB/4K, that’s some seriously solid stuff. I think that Evo could’ve gone longer had he not had some trouble in the first two innings with his pitch count. In both the first and second innings, he quickly got to two-outs but then had to work to get that final out.
All in all, it probably added an extra 10+ pitches to his total for the night. Then he had several battles with Jose Iglesias which didn’t help his pitch count whatsoever.
Last night was a special night for Eovaldi, someone who’s been in the league for eight years and has bounced around to several teams. To be able to pitch on Opening Day is an honor that doesn’t come around often, at least not for a guy with Nate’s history.
If you told me last year that he’d be the one on the mound kicking off this season I would’ve called you crazy. But he went out there and did the damn thing and dominated Baltimore, giving his team the best chance to win.
Hell, at one point he switched jerseys due to sweat and wound up grabbing the wrong one and wearing Christian Vazquez’s #7 for the third inning. It sounds like an honest mistake where the two jerseys were near each other and he grabbed the wrong one, but it somehow became the story of the night for the commentary squad. Seriously, between Mookie Betts’ new contract and Nate swapping jerseys, the NESN team had one hell of a good time.
“(Vazquez) and I both sweat a lot,” Eovaldi explained here at Fenway Park. “So we had the jerseys hanging up in the batting cage. And I didn’t realize his were down there, too. I glanced over and I just saw the 7 and assumed it was mine (17).”
Hopefully down the road, people will remember Opening Day 2020 for his efforts on the mound and not his silly mixup. Ahead of last night’s clash with the Orioles, I listed Nate as one of the three players I thought we should keep our eye on considering the magnitude of the start. I’ve never been happier to get something right as he was absolute nails. Oh yeah, I penciled Jose Peraza onto the list as well, 2 for 2 on predictions.
With only 60 games to get the job done and get to the postseason, there isn’t any room for the Red Sox to stumble. Last night was not only a statement by the offense but by Eovaldi as well, that this team isn’t going to quit. Yeah, they may not get much love from the media or the oddsmakers, but they can hang with anyone and on any given night, get the win. We can only count games against the Orioles so much, but based on what I saw, 2020 is going to be a good year for Nathan Eovaldi.