The Red Sox have made two trades this year, and the Steve Pearce one has looked great so far. They are hoping for similar results from the Nathan Eovaldi deal, and they got their first look at the newest rotation member on Sunday afternoon against the Twins. He was absolutely phenomenal, limiting hard contact and pitching as efficiently as we’ve seen any Red Sox pitcher this year. He was taken out a little earlier than many of us expected, but while he was in the game Eovaldi was everything they could have asked for and more. He also got some help from his defense, specifically Jackie Bradley Jr. making one of his best plays ever and Blake Swihart playing shockingly strong defense at third base. The offense, well, they got a lot going against a very good pitcher in Jose Berríos, which is something in and of itself. However, they left a ton of runners on base. That was overshadowed thanks to the phenomenal pitching, but it was frustrating.
The offense and the defense kind of overpowered the game in real time, but amid all that the real story was Eovaldi’s debut. He had solid numbers with the Rays, of course, and as a career American League East pitcher it’s not as if he was an unknown to us, but there’s always some nerve around a pitcher’s Red Sox debut. This obviously wasn’t the biggest test — he’ll get the Yankees in his next start — but he gave his new team exactly what they were looking for. The righty wasn’t just good, either, as his efficiency helped save a bullpen that has been worked to death in recent days.
The first inning was always going to be the one with the most potential for an implosion, what with the expected nerves of a pitcher making his Red Sox debut in Fenway Park. Eovaldi did find himself in a bit of trouble there when he allowed a one-out double to Eddie Rosario, but he worked around it. It took him 20 pitches, but the former Ray got through his first inning with his new team without allowing a run.
After that, he went into cruise control. He struck out the first two batters he faced in the second (after finishing off the first with a K as well) and allowed just an infield single in that inning. The third was a very quick 1-2-3 inning, but it came with some help. Bobby Wilson was the first batter of the frame and he launched one deep into the left-center field gap. Jackie Bradley Jr. did what he does, though, coming up with one of the best catches you’ll see at this park.
I mean this is impossible pic.twitter.com/iko5o17HbW— OverTheMonster (@OverTheMonster) July 29, 2018
The fourth looked like it could be some trouble for Eovaldi, too, as the Twins kicked things off with another infield single with Brian Dozier coming up next. The second baseman hit it well on a liner out towards Blake Swihart at third base, but the catcher-playing-infield made a nice stop to start an impressive double play. It was one of multiple impressive plays for Swihart out there on Sunday. Eovaldi ended up facing just three batters in that inning before allowing just a single in the fifth. The sixth and seventh were a couple more quick 1-2-3 innings, and the righty had just 82 pitches to that point in the game.
While this was going on, the Red Sox offense was making Jose Berríos work a ton, but really could have done more damage than they did. Granted, it was enough to hold the lead, but it was frustrating at times. Take the first, for example. The Red Sox got a quick rally going there with a single, a walk and an error to load the bases with just one out. For what it’s worth, on the error — one in which shortstop Jorge Polanco was eaten up by a routine double play ball and kicked it into shallow center field — it seemed as though Andrew Benintendi had a chance at scoring, but the Red Sox held him at third. Bradley would strike out and Núñez would ground out, however, and Boston left the first with the game still scoreless.
The score changed in the second, though that still was a bit frustrating. Swihart got that rally started with a bloop single, and Brock Holt followed it up by getting hit by a pitch. After Sandy León dropped down a bad bunt that eliminated Swihart at third base, Mookie Betts hit into a fielder’s choice to put runners on the corners. A walk would load the bases yet again, but this time J.D. Martinez was coming up. The slugger came through, ripping a double into left field to put the Sox up 2-0.
In the third, the Red Sox failed to load the bases for the first time in the game, but they weren’t far off. This time a single and a double — that latter from Swihart — put two runners in scoring position with just one out. Once again, Boston failed to come through and they were stranded. The fourth brought another run thanks to yet another RBI from Martinez, but it also brought more frustration. After the run scored, the Red Sox once again loaded the bases and once again left them that way.
After that fourth inning, the offense went a little cold for a bit. They got just a single in each of the next three innings, and in the sixth only three batters came to the plate thanks to a double play.
So, we headed into the top half of the eighth and Eovaldi had been removed despite a dominant performance and just 82 pitches under his belt. It was a strange decision by Alex Cora, who handed the ball off to Matt Barnes. Things didn’t get off to a great start as he walked the first batter he faced and appeared to have some trouble finding the zone. He got his composure after that, however, and got three straight outs after the free pass, including a pair of strikeouts.
After another scoreless inning from the offense in the eighth, it was up to Craig Kimbrel to come in and lock down the 3-0 lead. He did hit a batter in the inning, but a strikeout and a line drive double ended the game and preserved the shutout.
The Red Sox will take another series victory as they head into a tough week of baseball ahead. That starts with the NL-East-leading Phillies coming to town for a two-game set starting Monday. Boston will send David Price to the hill to take on Aaron Nola. First pitch is at 7:10 PM ET.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear the Red Sox will pick up a game in the standings today. The Yankees and Royals are still playing in New York, but the Yankees have a 6-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth. If that lead holds, Boston will keep its 5.5-game lead in the East.