Of the four starts Nathan Eovaldi made for the Red Sox over the course of spring training, his outing against the Rays in Fort Myers was undoubtedly his worst one.
Over four innings of work back on March 19, the veteran right-hander surrendered five earned runs on eight hits, one walk, and five strikeouts.
It may have just been a meaningless Grapefruit League game, but the lessons Eovaldi learned from that performance last month proved to be worthwhile during his second start of the regular season on Wednesday.
Working against the Rays at Fenway Park this time around, the 31-year-old dazzled by yielding just one earned run on three hits and three walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the afternoon. He needed just 91 pitches (60 strikes) to get through those seven frames.
“[Kevin] Plawecki and I had a good game plan going into it,” Eovaldi said when asked about his impressive showing against his former team on Wednesday. “We were able to follow up with everything, try to keep them off balance. In spring training, I learned a lot when they got to me early in the game. So I had to really mix my pitches today, and I was able to do that.”
Of the 91 pitches Eovaldi threw on Wednesday, 35 were four-seam fastballs, 20 were curveballs, 19 were sliders, nine were cutters, and eight were splitters. He induced 17 swings-and-misses from Rays hitters in total.
“I didn’t really have one pitch that wasn’t working,” added Eovaldi. “I was able to use the curveball, the slider — I used that a lot today, the cutter, splitty was good. I was able to locate the fastball. I made some mechanical adjustments the other day and they really helped me out. So I feel really good out there.”
With the Red Sox finishing off a three-game sweep of the Rays on Wednesday, Eovaldi was able to pick up his first winning decision and improve to 1-1 on the young season.
That Eovaldi was able to go seven innings in his second start of the year proved to be crucial for the Sox considering how spent their bullpen was following Tuesday night’s 6-5 win over Tampa Bay that took 12 innings to complete.
“We needed that,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “The fact that he only threw 91 pitches, it was very important. But he went seven. Where we were pitching-wise today, we needed a big performance from him, and he did.”
Eovaldi himself echoes this same sort of sentiment in regards to picking up a depleted pitching staff the day after a lengthy game.
“The way we started the season 0-3 against the Orioles, obviously we’re not happy with that,” Eovaldi said. “But then to come in, last night was a huge game for us. We were able to come back from behind, tie it up in the late innings, ultimately win the game. Both sides of the bullpen, we were down. So we were short on guys.
“For me to be able to come out there today, go a little deeper in the game for us, and then for us to come out on top today, have the sweep — especially against the Rays — it’s a big one for us,” he added. “Big series win.”
Through his first two starts of the year, the Houston-area native has allowed just two earned runs over his first 12 1/3 innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 1.46 as well as a 0.89 WHIP.
“He was amazing,” Cora said of Eovaldi. “He’s got two starts already. He’s done an amazing job mixing up pitches, throwing strikes. The fact he only made like 92 [pitches] in the first one, [91 pitches] today. Now he gets one more day in between starts. That’s really good for him.”
Eovaldi is slated to pitch again against the Twins in Minnesota next Tuesday.
(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)