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Nathan Eovaldi to start Game Three

Not Rick Porcello

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Prior to the series, the Red Sox plan was to start Rick Porcello in Game Three with Nathan Eovaldi available out of the bullpen for Game One while being slated to start Game Four. Well, it seems the reality flipped things around. It was actually Porcello who surprisingly came out in relief for the first game at Fenway, pitching a crucial eighth inning to help solidify Boston’s victory and get them out on the right foot in this series. The thought at the time was that the 15 pitches Porcello tossed on Friday wouldn’t be enough to throw him off his scheduled turn on Monday for Game Three, particularly with Friday being a likely throw-day for him anyway. He just made his pitches in game action rather than on the side. After Game One, and even after the Game Two loss, Alex Cora opted to keep secret who would be starting on Monday. It’s a secret no more, and it won’t be Porcello. Instead, it’s Nathan Eovaldi getting the call for the series’ first game in the Bronx.

This is strange, both because it flies in the face of what Cora’s plan had been all along, and because they are going with the worse pitcher in this game. The upside here is that Eovaldi has been very good against the Yankees since coming to the Red Sox. He’s tossed 16 innings against New York, allowing just one unearned run on six hits and three walks with 13 strikeouts. Those are very good numbers! It’s also a 16-inning sample with two full starts and one shortened start at the end of the season. It’s entirely possible Eovaldi can repeat those performances and that he really does have some advantage over the Yankees, but going with these small-sample numbers is a very risky play.

As for Porcello, I believe he is the safer option based on track record, but he’s not entirely safe. The righty has had major home runs problems, particularly in the second half of this season, and the Yankees are the best home-run hitting team of all-time in a hitter’s paradise of a park. There’s certainly downside there. However, it’s not like they’re avoiding him. He is tentatively scheduled to start Game Four, though there is also a chance he comes out of the bullpen in Game Three. If it were me, I’d swap roles with Porcello starting and Eovaldi being available out of the ‘pen.

This is a big, potentially series-swinging decision being made by Alex Cora. The manager has pushed the right buttons all year long, and he’s earned the benefit of the doubt as we head into a pivotal game in this ALDS. He’s going to catch a lot of flack if this doesn’t work, and deservedly so. Until then, though, we just have to hope he’s getting this one right.