Following a series split with the Chicago White Sox over the weekend, the Red Sox headed to Atlanta, where they would be taking on a first place 76-60 Braves team in the first of a three-game set in their first ever visit to SunTrust Park on Labor Day.
In a rare Monday afternoon game, it was Nathan Eovaldi who got the start for Boston after only pitching two-plus innings due to rain in his last time out on Friday.
Entering the day with a 8.05 ERA in his last five starts, the right-hander looked to get back on track against a team he has a good history with in the Braves, and that is not exactly how things went down.
Pitching into just the fourth inning of this one, Eovaldi held Atlanta scoreless on two hits and four walks, a new-season high, to go along with four strikeouts on the afternoon.
On paper, that may not look like the worst line, especially when you consider the August Eovaldi just had, but the walks, along with a high pitch count, is what limited him to those three-and-one third innings pitched.
After walking three of the first hitters he faced in the first and escaping the inning unscathed, the Texas native did settle down a bit, but the Braves forced him to work hard by consistently working the count, which led to the high volume of pitches early on.
By the time his day came to a conclusion with one out and runners on first and third in the bottom of the fourth, Eovaldi’s pitch count was already north of 85.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 86 (52 strikes), the 28-year-old relied on his three fastballs, four-seam, cut, and split-finger, a whopping 98% of the time he was on the mound. The other 2%? One slider and one curveball, that’s it.
Eovaldi also topped out at 100.9 MPH with his four-seam fastball to strike out Ronald Acuna Jr. in the first inning. According to MLB.com’s David Adler, “that’s the fastest strikeout pitch by a starter in MLB this season. It’s Eovaldi’s fastest pitch of the season.”
Unable to pick up the winning decision due to the length of the outing, Eovaldi did pitch well enough to help his team end the four-game losing streak they had in contests he had started since August 15th.
With his ERA on the season dropping down to a nice 4.20, the former 11th round pick will look to build on today’s start in his next time out, which should come against the Houston Astros next Sunday.
In relief of Eovaldi, Alex Cora first turned to Brandon Workman with runners on the corners and two outs to get in the fourth.
Although he did walk the first hitter he faced in Dansby Swanson, Workman was able to escape the frame scot-free thanks to a 3-2 put out at home and a pop out off the bat of the dangerous Ronald Acuna to retire the side.
Steven Wright, making his first appearance since June 22nd, worked his way around a HBP and two out single in an otherwise clean fifth inning.
Joe Kelly was responsible for the sixth, and his string of scoreless appearances came to an end after giving up a leadoff home run to Ozzie Albies, but he sat down the next three batters he faced after that to end the frame.
Ryan Brasier started the seventh, but could not finish it, as he gave up one run on three hits and a sacrifice fly before making way for Heath Hembree with two outs.
Earning the trust of Alex Cora to come into games with runners on base and get out of innings cleanly, Hembree got the job done yet again by fanning Ozzie Albies on four pitches to end the seventh.
From that point on, Matt Barnes earned his 25th hold of the year in a scoreless eighth inning, and Craig Kimbrel, who had not pitched in a game since last Tuesday, walked one in a scoreless ninth and final frame to secure his team’s 95th win.
All and all, the Red Sox used seven total relief pitchers this afternoon, and only two runs, along with two walks, were given up. Not too shabby. Brandon Workman earned the winning decision.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against rookie right-hander Touki Toussaint for Atlanta, who had only made one career big league start against the Miami Marlins prior to Monday.
Ranked as the Braves’ number seven prospect, Toussaint, 22, had it going on early, as he held Boston hitless through the first four innings of this one. But once the fifth inning hit, it was the bottom of the lineup who got the scoring started.
Beginning with a one out double from Eduardo Nunez, two more doubles off the bat of both Ian Kinsler and Christian Vazquez all of a sudden had the Red Sox up by two runs.
Two batters later, a Mookie Betts RBI single that drove in Vazquez from second and increased the lead to three runs is what put an end to Toussaint’s second career big league start.
Fast forward to the eighth, with the Red Sox lead trimmed down to one run, and Ian Kinsler essentially put this game out of reach with a two out, bases-clearing three RBI double off Braves left-hander Jesse Biddle.
What was even better about that big hit is the fact that it would not have even happened had Freddie Freeman not committed a throwing error on an Eduardo Nunez ground ball that ended up loading the bases for Kinsler.
Finally, in the ninth, Xander Bogaerts made the Braves pay for intentionally walking JD Martinez to load the bases by ripping a two RBI double to center field to plate Brock Holt and Andrew Benintendi.
After another intentional walk of Mitch Moreland, Eduardo Nunez put this game on ice with a 341 foot sacrifice fly to drive JD Martinez in from third and make it a 8-2 game, which would end up being your final score.
Some notes from this 8-2 win:
The Red Sox are 12-3 in interleague play this season.
Since August 24th, Ian Kinsler is slashing .351/.368/.514 with one home run and six RBI.
Looking to guarantee a series win tomorrow night, it will be Rick Porcello getting the ball for Boston.
In two interleague starts this season, the right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in 13 innings pitched against the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies. He is also 2/5 with 3 RBI at the plate in those starts.
Opposite Porcello will be LHP Sean Newcomb for the Braves.
Newcomb, 25 and a native of Brockton, Massachusetts, has posted a 3.85 ERA over 26 starts with Atlanta in his first full season in the majors.
Back on May 26th, Newcomb was only able to pitch three innings while giving up three earned runs in a losing effort in his only other start against the Red Sox.
First pitch of the second game of the series is scheduled for 7:35 PM ET Tuesday.