Rafael Devers turns impressive double play to get Red Sox out of early trouble Sunday

Hours after making a game-saving defensive play with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth inning of Saturday’s game against the Orioles, Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers was at it again with his glove on Sunday.

With Nick Pivetta on the mound for Boston, D.J. Stewart at first base following a leadoff single, and Maikel Franco at the plate with no outs in the bottom of the second, Devers’ quick reflexes were truly his ally on this particular play.

On a 1-1 slider at the top of the zone from Pivetta, Franco laced a line-drive that had an exit velocity of 103.6 mph and was destined to land in shallow left field were it not for Devers.

Already playing well behind the third-base bag, the 24-year-old — with his back facing home plate — quickly scurried to his left, snagged Franco’s screamer on the back-hand for a forceout, then had the intuition to turn, line up his feet, and make a cross-diamond throw over to first.

Stewart, having taken a few steps off of first, was now forced to retreat back to the bag, but he was unable to do so in a timely manner and was instead doubled up on Devers’ hurl and some fine footwork from first baseman Bobby Dalbec.

For the Red Sox, Devers’ improved play at the hot corner as of late is an encouraging sign given how he struggled out of the gate defensively.

“He’s been doing a good job the last few days,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of the young third baseman Saturday night. “It was a rough start early on but he’s made better decisions and we’re very happy with the way he’s been playing.”

(Picture of Rafael Devers: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Garrett Richards tosses 5 solid innings after rocky start; Rafael Devers homers again; Matt Andriese picks up save as Red Sox battle back to defeat Orioles, 6-4, in 10 innings for fifth straight win

An off-day on Friday could not halt the Red Sox’ momentum on Saturday, as the club battled back, won its fifth consecutive game, and won its second straight series with a 6-4 victory over the Orioles in 10 innings at Camden Yards.

Richards stumbles out of the gates, but turns in solid performance

After getting rocked for six runs over just two innings against the O’s in his Red Sox debut last Sunday, Garrett Richards did not get off to the best of starts in his second outing of the season on Saturday

Gifted a two-run lead before he even took the mound, the veteran right-hander served up a pair of solo homers to the very second and third hitters he faced in Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander.

At that point, it appeared as though Richards was in for a rather long — or short — evening. To his credit, though, he managed to turn things around for the better by retiring 14 of the next 18 hitters he faced in order to get through five innings.

Over those five solid frames, the 32-year-old hurler surrendered all of two earned runs on three hits and three walks to go along with four strikeouts on the night.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 79 (47 strikes), Richards relied on his four-seam fastball 49% of the time he was on the mound Saturday, inducing eight swings-and-misses while topping out at 95.6 mph with the pitch.

Unable to pick up the winning decision despite the decent performance, Richards’ next start should come against the Twins in Minnesota on Thursday.

Ottavino gives up late lead

In relief of Richards, Darwinzon Hernandez got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen. The left-hander danced his way around some trouble in a scoreless bottom half of the sixth and recorded the first out of the seventh before yielding a hard-hit double to the speedy Cedric Mullins.

That led to Hernandez getting the hook in favor of Adam Ottavino, who managed to escape the jam by getting two quick outs.

The eighth inning, however, was a different story for Adam Ottavino, as the veteran reliever saw his side’s 3-2 lead turn into a 4-3 deficit after surrendering two runs on three hits in the frame. Josh Taylor had to come on to get the final two outs.

Dalbec, Barnes send things to extras

After falling behind by a run in the eighth, the Sox did not waste any time getting back into things in the top half of the ninth.

One-out singles from Marwin Gonzalez and the pinch-hitting Franchy Cordero off O’s reliever Cesar Valdez put runners at the corners for a struggling Bobby Dalbec.

Dalbec was unable to come through with a go-ahead hit or clutch sacrifice fly, but he was able to drive in the tying run from third by doing the next best thing: grounding into a force out at second and beating out a double play.

The fact that a hustling Dalbec beat Freddy Galvis’ throw and reached first base safely meant that Gonzalez scored from third, which tied things up at three runs a piece.

That resulted in Matt Barnes coming on for the bottom half of the ninth, and the flame-throwing right-hander continued his dominating, season-opening run by striking out a pair in yet another perfect inning of relief to send this one to extras.

Chavis, Vazquez, and Andriese seal the come-from-behind victory

Michael Chavis probably did not anticipate playing a key role for the Red Sox in their game against the Orioles when he woke up on Saturday morning, but with J.D. Martinez being placed on the COVID-19 related injured list (cold symptoms), the 25-year-old infielder was called into action from the team’s taxi squad.

Pinch-running in place of Kevin Plawecki and placed at second base to start things out in the 10th, Chavis advanced to third on a sacrifice fly then came into score on a wild pitch from Orioles righty Dillon Tate.

Walks drawn by Alex Verdugo and Xander Bogaerts put runners at first and second for a red-hot Christian Vazquez, who proceeded to greet new Baltimore reliever Wade LeBlanc by ripping an RBI single to left field.

Vazquez’s fifth RBI put the Sox up by two at 6-4 going into the bottom of the 10th, which allowed Matt Andriese — yes, Matt Andriese — to pick up the first save of the season for any Boston reliever by tossing a scoreless inning.

Devers has rollercoaster of a game

Rafael Devers stayed hot on Saturday by mashing another home run as part of a 2-for-5 showing at the plate, but he did not necessarily get his night off on the right foot.

After plating Verdugo on an RBI single off O’s starter Bruce Zimmermann with two outs in the first, the 24-year-old wound up getting caught in a rundown between first and second with Gonzalez at the plate, though Bogaerts was able to score from third as a result of said rundown.

An inning and a half later, Devers had the opportunity to bail out Richards and record the final out of the second when Galvis struck out swinging and Rio Ruiz took off for second base.

On a nice and hard pickoff attempt from Plawecki behind the plate, Devers — playing in the shift — had the chance to tag out Ruiz at second for a strike ’em out-throw ’em out double play, but instead fielded the throw well in front of the bag and started jogging towards the visitor’s dugout.

The reason being, Devers thought there were already two outs in the inning and Galvis striking out marked the end of the frame.

That lapse in judgement did not come back to bite Devers or the Sox, but it was still a bit unusual to see nonetheless.

For as poorly as Devers may have played early on Saturday, he certainly made up for it in the later innings.

As previously mentioned, the left-handed slugger clubbed his second big fly of the season in the sixth to give his side a 3-2 lead.

He also made a clutch defensive play, when with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth, Devers fielded a groundball off the bat of Mancini on one hop and got the out at first to preserve a 4-3 lead for his side.

Next up: Pivetta vs. Lopez

Next up, the Red Sox will look to enact their revenge on the Orioles by completing the three-game sweep over their division rivals on Sunday afternoon.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta will be getting the ball for Boston, and he will be matched up against fellow righty Jorge Lopez for Baltimore.

First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox going for their sixth straight win.

(Picture of Red Sox: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Red Sox place J.D. Martinez on COVID-19 related injured list, recall Michael Chavis

The Red Sox have placed designated hitter/outfielder J.D. Martinez on the COVID-19 related injured list, the team announced before Saturday’s game against the Orioles.

In a corresponding move, the Sox recalled infielder Michael Chavis from the alternate training site.

Martinez, 33, was initially held out of Saturday’s contest against Baltimore due to his feeling under the weather and experiencing cold symptoms.

Because of those symptoms, Martinez had to be placed in MLB’s COVID-19 protocol, which requires two negative COVID tests before he is cleared to return to baseball activities.

The three-time All-Star has already taken a rapid test and will need to take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test as well.

The Red Sox seem confident that Martinez only has a cold and will be ready to go on Sunday after testing negative twice.

“From our end, we do believe he’s going to be back with us tomorrow,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said during his pregame media availability on Saturday.

In Martinez’s place, Chavis has been called up from the Sox’ alternate training site. The 25-year-old infielder had been one of five players traveling with the team as part of their taxi squad for the first road trip of the season.

Catcher Chris Herrmann, outfielder Cesar Puello, and pitchers Colten Brewer and Ryan Weber are the other four players who comprise Boston’s taxi squad.

(Picture of J.D. Martinez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Garrett Whitlock impresses with 2 scoreless innings in second appearance of season; ‘We needed him, and he did an outstanding job,’ Alex Cora says

Garrett Whitlock’s major-league debut came in an otherwise forgettable game for the Red Sox.

In their series finale against the Orioles this past Sunday at Fenway Park, the Sox found themselves down by 10 runs before the midway point of the third inning.

Whitlock, having come over from the Yankees as a Rule 5 Draft pick in December, came on in relief of left-hander Josh Taylor with two outs in the top half of the third.

From that point forward, the right-hander did not look back as he retired 10 of the 13 hitters he faced over 3 1/3 scoreless innings of work.

Four days later, Whitlock was called on again to pitch against the Orioles, though he was doing so in Baltimore in a game that was much more competitive.

After the Sox lineup tacked on two runs in their half of the sixth to retake the lead over the O’s at 4-3, Whitlock came on in relief of Thursday’s starter, Eduardo Rodriguez, in the bottom half of the frame.

Although he was pitching in a closer game in his second outing of the season, the 24-year-old did not miss a beat in the process of sitting down all six hitters he faced in order over two perfect, scoreless innings of relief.

He needed just 20 pitches (15 strikes) to get through those two innings. 11 of those pitches were changeups, eight were sinkers, and one was a four-seam fastball that registered at 95.3 mph.

“You see it and it’s like, ‘Wow, he belongs,'” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Whitlock’s performance on Thursday. “The tempo. The conviction. Most of the time, Rule 5 guys don’t shake off your catcher, right? But he knows what he wants to do, and he does. He shakes him off and he goes to the pitch he feels is right in that situation. He’s been great for us.”

A former 18th-round draft selection of the Yankees out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2017, Whitlock had compiled 42 appearances (38 starts) across four minor-league levels before undergoing Tommy John surgery in July 2019.

His recovery from that procedure coincided with the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, so before this past Sunday he hadn’t pitched in a competitive game in nearly two years.

“We still have to be careful,” Cora said in regards to Whitlock. “This is not what he’s used to. But, we do believe his stuff will play. This is the second time [the Orioles] have seen him and you saw the swings, so we’re comfortable with him. That was a situation where we were down, we get the lead, he was hot, so why not, you know? We needed him, and he did an outstanding job.”

Christian Vazquez has caught Whitlock in both of his outings thus far. It’s safe to say the veteran backstop has been impressed with what he has seen from the rookie hurler in those two appearances.

“He’s doing good, man. Great kid,” Vazquez said Thursday. “He’s got great stuff. Heavy fastball. Plus changeup. So he’s doing good. I think he’s going to help us big time.”

Whitlock, who turns 25 in June, must remain on the Sox’ major-league roster throughout the season or he would otherwise have to be offered back to New York since he is a Rule 5 pick.

Assuming he remains in Boston for the entirety of the 2021 campaign, the Georgia native would then be under team control through the 2026 season.

This would allow the Red Sox to maintain the services of a young, controllable arm with plenty of potential who could emerge as a legitimate starting rotation option next spring.

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Matt Barnes continues dominant run to begin season by striking out the side on Thursday; ‘He’s going to be a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish,’ Alex Cora says

Seven games into the 2021 season, Red Sox manager Alex Cora has yet to name a closer for his team. But Matt Barnes is certainly making the case to take over that role given how he has performed out of the gate.

The right-hander made his third appearance of the year during the ninth inning of Thursday’s contest against the Orioles in Baltimore. In a nearly-immaculate effort, he needed all of 11 pitches (10 strikes) to punch out the O’s 5-6-7 hitters in order to lock down a 7-3 victory for his side.

“That was amazing, right? Just throwing all those strikes,” Cora said of Barnes’ effort on Thursday. “Velocity. I do believe this is his best fastball, at least of the last three years. The carry. It’s not only up in the zone. It’s actually through the zone and down. The breaking ball is good.”

Of the 11 pitches Barnes threw against Baltimore, seven were curveballs and four were four-seam fastballs. He sat at 94-96 mph with his four-seamer.

Following Thursday’s outing, the veteran reliever has yet to allow a run or hit while striking out nine and yielding just one walk through four innings of work thus far.

Going into Opening Day, Barnes was mired in a competition with fellow righty Adam Ottavino to determine who Boston’s closer would be.

Both hurlers had solid camps and performed well in Grapefruit League play, but Barnes being forced out of action for three days in late March due to a false positive COVID-19 made it appear as though Ottavino had a solid chance at landing the gig.

Instead, Cora has still yet to name a set closer, though the expectation seems to be that Barnes is the man for the job at the moment.

“We’re very happy with him,” said the Sox skipper. “He has matured a lot. He’s going to be a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Barnes, who turns 31 in June, is slated to become a free agent for the first time this winter, so him enjoying a career year in 2021 would certainly be well-received.

The UCONN product has been in the Red Sox organization since 2011 and has stated before that he is open to signing a contract extension to remain with the team he began his professional career with.

(Picture of Matt Barnes: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Eduardo Rodríguez fans seven over 5 strong innings in first start since 2019; Rafael Devers and Kiké Hernández collect first homers of season as Red Sox top Orioles, 7-3, for fourth straight win

Eduardo Rodriguez picked up on Thursday where he left off 557 days ago.

The left-hander’s last start of the 2019 season came against the Orioles, and he allowed three runs over seven strong innings in that contest.

After missing the entirety of the 2020 season due to myocarditis, Rodriguez finally made his long-awaited return to a big-league mound on Thursday in Baltimore.

Working against the O’s in their home opener, the recently-turned 28-year-old again held Baltimore to three runs — this time over five innings — while scattering four hits and no walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the afternoon.

All three runs Rodriguez surrendered on Thursday came by way of the home run ball, with Ryan Mountcastle crushing a two-run homer in the first and Pedro Severino clubbing a solo shot off the lefty in the fourth.

From that point on, though, Rodriguez did manage to retire each of the final four hitters he faced in order.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 79 (56 strikes), the Venezuelan hurler sat at 91-95 mph with his four-seam fastball — a pitch he threw 13 times — while also inducing four swings-and-misses with his changeup — a pitch he threw 25 times.

Able to pick up his first winning decision of the year because of his triumphant effort, Rodriguez’s next start should come against the Twins next Wednesday.

Whitlock, Barnes sharp out of the bullpen

In relief of Rodriguez, rookie right-hander Garrett Whitlock got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen. The 24-year-old followed up his impressive big-league debut from last weekend by punching out three of the six Orioles he faced over two perfect frames of work to pick up his first career hold.

Matt Andriese, who helped Whitlock develop his changeup over the course of spring training, maneuvered his way around a leadoff walk and one-out single to toss a scoreless eighth.

Matt Barnes, meanwhile, was on the cusp of an immaculate inning (nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts) in the ninth, but he still struck out the side on 11 pitches anyway to preserve the 7-3 victory for his side.

Devers gets on the board with first homer

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in Orioles right-hander Matt Harvey, whom they had just seen last weekend.

Following a one-out double from Alex Verdugo, Rafael Devers got the scoring started for the Sox right away by mashing his first home run of the season — a two-run shot — off Harvey to give his side the early 2-0 advantage.

Per Baseball Savant, Devers’ first big fly of 2021 left his bat at 111 mph and traveled approximately 452 feet to deep center field.

Retaking the lead and adding on some insurance

Harvey managed to hold the Boston bats in check after giving up that Devers homer, and him doing that coincided with the Orioles jumping out to a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning.

In the sixth, though, the Orioles starter put the first two hitters he faced — Devers and Christian Vazquez — on base on a pair of singles, and that would lead to his exit from this contest.

Matched up against lefty reliever Paul Fry now, Marwin Gonzalez drew a six-pitch walk, which allowed Christian Arroyo and Franchy Cordero to plate a pair of runs on an RBI groundout and RBI single.

Verdugo sparked more offense in the seventh, as he collected his second double of the afternoon and later scored on a two-base hit off the bat of a red-hot J.D. Martinez — marking the seventh straight game the vaunted slugger has reached base on an extra-base hit out of the gate.

That sequence put the Red Sox up two at 5-3, and Gonzalez added on to that with a run-scoring single of his own to make it a 6-3 contest going into stretch time.

Kiké Hernández comes through with first home run

Devers was not the only member of the Red Sox to notch his first homer of the year on Thursday, as Kiké Hernández did the very same in the top half of the eighth.

On a 2-2, 86 mph slider from Orioles reliever Tyler Wells, the 29-year-old pulled said pitch 372 feet to left field for his first home run in a Sox uniform.

Hernández’s 72nd career homer put the Red Sox up 7-3, which would go on to be Thursday’s final score.

Next up: An off day

Now winners of four straight after starting the season 0-3, the Sox will enjoy an off day on Friday before they look to keep things rolling against the O’s on Saturday.

Right-hander Garrett Richards is slated to get the ball for Boston in that contest, and he will be matched up against rookie left-hander Bruce Zimmermann for Baltimore.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Rafael Devers: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Red Sox taxi squad: Michael Chavis among 5 players traveling with team for first road trip of season

As the Red Sox prepare to begin their first road trip of the season, the club will be carrying five additional players with them as part of their taxi squad.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the five players that comprise Boston’s first taxi squad of the year are catcher Chris Herrmann, infielder Michael Chavis, outfielder Cesar Puello, and right-handers Colten Brewer and Ryan Weber.

These players, as Cotillo notes, “would be the first ones activated if someone on the 26-man active roster” gets hurt.

Per Major League Baseball’s health and safety protocols for the 2021 season, clubs are allowed to carry up to five taxi squad players for each road trip this season. One of these players must be a catcher, which is where Herrmann comes in.

Additionally, players on a club’s taxi squad are allowed to work out with the major-league team before games, but are not allowed to be in uniform or in the dugout during games.

When the Red Sox return to Boston after completing their seven-game road trip against the Orioles and Twins next Thursday, the likes of Herrmann, Chavis, Puello, Brewer, and Weber will all return to the team’s alternate training site in Worcester, which is where they were to begin the year.

(Picture of Michael Chavis: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox reinstate Eduardo Rodriguez from injured list ahead of left-hander’s season debut against Orioles

Before opening up a three-game series against the Orioles on Thursday, the Red Sox reinstated left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez from the 10-day injured list.

Rodriguez, who turned 28 on Wednesday, will make his 2021 debut in the first of three against Baltimore after starting the season on the injured list due to left elbow inflammation.

The Venezuelan southpaw originally had been slated to start for Boston on Opening Day, but was scratched from that start on account of dealing with “dead arm” during the late stages of spring training.

That bout with “dead arm” resulted in the Sox placing Rodriguez on the IL last week, but as expected, it was a short stint on the shelf for the lefty.

“He’s good to go,” Red Sox manager Cora said on Wednesday. “Looking forward to him to pitch tomorrow. He really wanted to pitch today because it’s his birthday. Good for him, but no. We’re very happy. He’ll be okay tomorrow. He’ll be ready to go.”

When Rodriguez takes the field at Camden Yards on Thursday afternoon, it will have been approximately 557 days since he last toed a big-league rubber. He missed the entirety of the shortened 2020 campaign after being diagnosed with myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) following a bout with COVID-19 last summer.

“It will mean a lot because of everything I went through last year,” Rodriguez told reporters Wednesday. “I just was happy to have the opportunity to be back in baseball and be back to start tomorrow.”

Rodriguez, who owns a lifetime 2.60 ERA in nine career starts at Camden Yards, will not be capped by a pitch or inning limit on Thursday, though the expectation is that Cora and Co. will take a conservative approach with him given the circumstances.

Regardless of that, it goes without saying that Rodriguez’s highly-anticipated season debut has been a long time coming. He will look to lead the Sox to their fourth consecutive victory on Thursday.

The reason the Red Sox were able to activate Rodriguez on Thursday without making a corresponding roster move is because the club optioned right-hander Tanner Houck to the alternate training site in Worcester on Tuesday night.

(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Red Sox option Tanner Houck to Worcester: Chaim Bloom says rookie right-hander ‘is a capable major-league starting pitcher right now, but that doesn’t mean he’s a finished product’

The Red Sox optioning rookie right-hander Tanner Houck to the alternate training site in Worcester on Wednesday did not come as much of a surprise.

With Eduardo Rodriguez set to make his season debut against the Orioles on Thursday, the Sox needed to open up a roster spot in order to activate the left-hander from the injured list.

Considering the fact that Houck has minor-league options and Boston’s starting rotation already consists of Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Richards, Nick Pivetta, and Martin Perez, optioning the young righty seemed like the most logical step to take so that Rodriguez could be slotted back into the rotation.

Since being called up by the Red Sox for the first time last September, Houck has posted a 1.17 ERA and 2.51 FIP over five outings (four starts) and 23 innings pitched. That includes his first start of the 2021 season against the Orioles over the weekend in which he gave up three runs (two earned) over five innings as well as a relief appearance in the 11th inning of Tuesday’s contest against the Rays in which he allowed one unearned run in one inning of work.

To say the 24-year-old out of Collinsville, Ill. has gotten his big-league career off to an impressive start would be an understatement, but the Sox still feel as though there are some things he can improve upon.

“Tanner pitched great, both in his start and his appearance out of the bullpen,” chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told The Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato on Wednesday. “Simply put, this is about depth. We’re fortunate to have five guys we feel are good and capable major league starters. Tanner, we feel, is a sixth. We want to keep them all starting and keep them all pitching.”

Bloom acknowledged that while Boston’s starting rotation is set for the time being, injuries are inevitable and having Houck available to come up from Worcester could prove to be extremely valuable.

While Houck will be limited to just throwing bullpen sessions and in simulated games at Polar Park for the time being before the minor-league season begins next month, one aspect of his game the Sox would like to see the former first-round pick build on is continuing to develop a third pitch.

That third pitch, a splitter, is one that is still relatively new to the 6-foot-5, 218 pound hurler. Of the 100 pitches the righty has thrown so far this season, only three have been splitters.

“I think Tanner Houck is a capable major league starting pitcher right now, but that doesn’t mean he’s a finished product,” Bloom told Mastrodonato. “We know his ceiling could be even higher if he gets really comfortable with a third pitch. We know he can get lefties out, executing the fastball and slider the way he has in his big league starts, but if he can get more comfortable with that splitter, he’ll be even better. While he’s in Worcester, it’ll be easier to work on that than it would be while he’s pitching in a close game at the big league level.”

To put it simply, Houck is still “a work in progress” in the Red Sox’ eyes.. The hope is that he will be able to make more developmental strides while at the alternate site before being called upon once again.

“Keep working on his craft, on his pitches,” Red Sox manager Alex said in regards to what Houck can do to improve in Worcester. “Keep throwing strikes. Keep developing his secondary pitches. And just be ready. That’s all he needs to do. Where we’re at right now, we knew that this was going to happen. You look at the guys that have pitched for us, they’ve done an amazing job. And the difference between this team and last year — and even 2019 — we’re a lot deeper.

“He was a professional when we talked to him,” Cora continued. “He understands. Whenever we need him, he’ll be here and he’ll perform.”

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Nathan Eovaldi puts together ‘amazing’ performance against Rays on Wednesday to finish off three-game sweep; ‘We needed that,’ Alex Cora says

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)