Red Sox: Nathan Eovaldi can add to Opening Day success against Yanks
Red Sox once again turn to Nathan Eovaldi for Opening Day
Opening Day is two days away and the Red Sox will turn to one of their most reliable starters for the third year in a row. Nathan Eovaldi has emerged as Boston’s strongest arm since joining the club during the 2018 season and he’s more than earned the honor. Though his record pitching in the season opener isn’t perfect, he’s more than given his team what they’ve needed to succeed.
Eovaldi will be joining an illustrious group of starting pitchers in Red Sox history as he’ll be the 16th pitcher in club history to start on Opening Day. As I mentioned above this will also be his third consecutive turn at the opportunity. He’ll be joining a legendary club that includes names like Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Luis Tiant, Cy Young, Jon Lester, Dennis Eckersley, and Babe Ruth among others.
So, how exactly has Nasty Nate fared in his last two dances with Opening Day? I’ll tell ya! Both of his previous starts came against the Baltimore Orioles and they were almost identical to one another. Despite giving almost matching efforts his results would vary on the two outings.
In the COVID shortened 2020 campaign Opening Day didn’t arrive until July 24th. With a 7:30 pm first pitch and Fenway Park empty, Evo would take the mound against the O’s. On this night, it wouldn’t matter what he did as his team came to back him up. The Red Sox offense would put up 13 runs against Baltimore on a night that saw Nate give up just one earned on five hits in six innings of work. He also struck out four while walking just one.
We all know how that 2020 season went for the Red Sox and Eovaldi’s season was one of the few bright spots for the team in what was a waste of a year. While his contract felt like an albatross in his injury-filled 2019 season, the righty has more than earned every penny since and will be hitting free agency when this year concludes.
Let’s turn the page to 2021 and things are slightly back to normal. We actually have fans in the stands at Fenway though it’s a fraction of what we’re used to seeing in the league’s oldest ballpark. Unfortunately for Nate, he didn’t get the backup from his powerhouse offense that he did in the previous effort.
Evo would post a nearly identical line in his second Opening Day start, once again against the Orioles, with four hits, one earned, one walk, and four whiffs through 5 1/3 innings of work. The Red Sox offense put a goose egg on the board and they’d lose to Baltimore 3-0. Luckily for us, they’d dominate the first half and run through the Postseason coming within two games of the World Series.
Though it may be a minuscule fact, I do find it interesting that both of his first starts of a season, came against the same team, and the lines were almost identical. I know, I know. The win/loss may not invoke the thought of success but he did have two very good starts despite what his record may reflect.
The fireballer split the two starts and will be going into his third Opening Day level in the record books, but the game is about to change. He won’t be tackling the O’s again, but instead, he’ll have to battle Gerrit Cole and the Yankees in the Bronx in front of a rabid packed house.
To say that he’ll be facing a more difficult lineup in New York is an understatement. While the Yankee lineup does have more Bruce Banners than Hulks, they have shown in the past that on any given night they can all lose their temper. Nate will need to have his absolute best stuff if he wants to get the Red Sox season off on the right foot. Giving even an inch to the Bronx Bombers can give them and their fanbase a ridiculous amount of confidence, and we can’t have that.
The Red Sox absolutely crushed any and every expectation that was placed upon them ahead of the 2021 season, and Eovaldi played a big factor in their success. He owned an 11-9 record through 182.1 innings with a 3.75 ERA. He led the American League in starts (32) and FIP (2.79) while leading all of baseball in BB/9 (1.7).
Those efforts would earn him a fourth-place Cy Young finish, missing out on the Top-3 by just a few votes. Don’t be surprised if he comes roaring back in 2022 looking to get into that top tier as free agency looms. And with Chris Sale out for the foreseeable future, Boston will need their ace to carry much of the workload until he returns.
Nathan Eovaldi’s future will be a curious one as the 32-year-old pitcher will be entering free agency with two Tommy John’s and several maintenance procedures under his belt. Obviously, another strong season and possibly another killer Postseason performance could net him another hefty payday, but one hiccup could also derail that train. He’s more than earned his spot in the hearts of Red Sox Nation and I have no doubts we’ll all be rooting him on in 2022.