Red Sox: Nathan Eovaldi has emerged as Boston’s ace in 2021

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 14: Nathan Eovaldi #17 of the Boston Red Sox throws a pitch during the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on September 14, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 14: Nathan Eovaldi #17 of the Boston Red Sox throws a pitch during the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on September 14, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

Nathan Eovaldi has been the backbone of the Red Sox pitching staff

West Coast games can be tricky not only for the players but for the fans as well. The Red Sox played their second of three games against the Mariners last night and we got to see Nathan Eovaldi pitch a gem that was cut short. I’ll admit that I only made it through the fourth inning as we were hovering around midnight at that point and I need as much beauty sleep as possible. But I got to watch Boston’s ace go to work and do the damn thing.

Before we get deep into what he’s done in totality this season let’s take a further look at his start in Seattle last night. When I say he was doing the damn thing, I’m not kidding. Through three innings he was sitting at just 39 pitches and already had six strikeouts. Unfortunately, the fourth inning did him in as he would give up three of his five total hits on the night and the Mariners would take a 2-1 lead.

Granted a dinky-doo single and a horrible play by Hunter Renfroe can be blamed for some of that damage it would effectively start the clock on his night. If he was able to maintain the pace he had through the first three innings he more than likely would’ve made it to the seventh or later, something he’s done seven times this season. Alas, Nate would clear five full innings of work with a 5H/2R/1ER/1BB/9K slash

I’m sure some of you will scoff at the idea of Eovaldi as the team’s ace but you really can’t deny it at this point. A great half-season in 2018, an injury-hampered 2019, a rock-solid 2020, and now a dominant 2021. I use the word dominant because in a very sneaky way he has been. Not every outing has him looking like Max Scherzer but he has been everything that the Red Sox have needed since he arrived.

Nate just passed his 10-year service time milestone and that alone is a massive accomplishment for any player. Add in that he’s a pitcher that’s undergone not one, but two Tommy John surgeries, as well as, other procedures to keep his pitching arm intact and it’s mindblowing. Another thing that further pushes my belief that he’s become Boston’s ace lies within his stats.

In his tenth year in the league, he currently leads the entire MLB in BB/9 with a strong 1.65% while leading the American League in HR/9 with a silent 0.75, for qualified starters.  If you’re stepping into the box with Evo on the mound there’s a good chance you’re not getting a free pass and you’re definitely not going yard. He’s done a fantastic job this season of limiting the stupid damage that can quickly sink any pitcher if those numbers begin to climb.

He also leads the AL in games started with 29, he’s been durable and reliable for Alex Cora’s side from Opening Day until now. He hasn’t missed a start in 2021 and hasn’t spent a single day on the IL, the first time he’s avoided injury since the 2015 season. He’ll have a few more starts in the campaign to add onto these totals and further cement himself as the foundation of Boston’s starting rotation.

As the Red Sox make their way through the final weeks of their playoff push they’ll need Eovaldi to continue to what he’s done all season long. With last night’s win, Boston is in a three-way tie with the Yankees and Blue Jays for the top Wild Card spot, though they’re third on that totem pole thanks to some silly percentage points. The goal should be to get that first spot, host the Wild Card Game at a ruckus Fenway Park, and move on to the ALDS. But who pitches that game?

I wish I had an answer to that question because I tend to flop between Nasty Nate and Chris Sale. It’s definitely between those two as they’re the two premier starters on this pitching staff but it’s a matter of who will be ready. Sale has looked good since his return from Tommy John but his last start definitely showed he’s not all the way back just yet. On the other hand, Eovaldi has been money all season long and has strung together back-to-back dominant outings, it’s tough.

At the end of the day, Nathan Eovaldi is having one hell of a season and he’s without a doubt an ace on this pitching staff. If any other fanbase wants to joke about that I’d gladly invite them to look at their own starters and tell me Eovaldi wouldn’t make them better, not many can say no. With a few more starts on the calendar, I’m excited to see how he finishes out one of the best years of his career and hopefully continues this stretch into October.

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