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Red Sox 7, Rays 4: A quality start for Nathan Eovaldi

And a big start for a strange lineup.

Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

In the first two games of this series, the Red Sox failed to help their friends in Cleveland and Oakland in their quests to meet up in the Wildcard Game with Tampa Bay on the outside looking in. On Sunday, the Red Sox took advantage of their opportunity to play spoiler. With a strange lineup in tow, Boston jumped out to a four-run lead in the first thanks to their steady performers, a group led today by Christian Vázquez and J.D. Martinez. Nathan Eovaldi, meanwhile, struggled in the first half of his start and was lucky to only allow three runs in his first three innings. He settled down in a big way after that, though, getting his first quality start since April 17. Even better: It didn’t go extra innings!

The Red Sox, fresh off two really frustrating losses that each went eleven innings, rolled into Sunday with a very strange lineup. Their 2-3-4 spots were normal, but everything else was all out of whack with the Rays starting the left-handed Ryan Yarbrough. It was one of those lineups that just screamed “This game doesn’t really matter.” So, of course they came out firing in the top half of the first inning.

Now, to be fair those aforementioned 2-3-4 hitters were the guys who really got things going in this rally. After Jackie Bradley Jr. led off the game with an out, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez came through with three consecutive base hits. Just like that, the Red Sox had a 1-0 lead. That brought Christian Vázquez to the plate, whose presence in the lineup wasn’t so strange as much as his playing first base. Anyway, his bat was the story here because he hit an absolute moonshot off Yarbrough out to left field. With the catcher (and apparently first baseman)’s 22nd (!) home run of the year, Boston was up 4-0 and there was still only one out. From there, they’d load the bases on two singles and a hit batter, bringing Bradley up for the second time in the inning. This time there were two outs, and it looked like he had drawn a run-scoring walk. Instead, a bogus strike was called and the Red Sox settled for the four-run lead.

It was frustrating because that walk likely would have knocked Yarbrough out the game and who knows what Boston could have done if that inning continued with the heart of the lineup coming up. Instead, Nathan Eovaldi came on with his team leading 4-0. He’s trying to generate a little positive momentum heading into the offseason, but he didn’t really look great in this one. He came out in this first inning and started things off with a walk before allowing a base hit to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Thankfully, he got a ground ball from Tommy Pham that resulted in a double play started by a nice play from Chris Owings, giving the Rays a run but also two outs in a trade Boston will take every time. The inning ended with the score still 4-1.

He’d get himself into more trouble in the second, too. This time, the Rays started things off with a base hit. Eovaldi did get a strikeout after that, but Tampa Bay came back with back-to-back base hits after that to give themselves another run and cut their deficit down to two. The momentum stayed with the home team in the third when they started their third straight inning with a batter doing damage. This time it was real damage with Joey Wendle blasting a solo shot. Just like that, Boston’s 4-0 lead was cut down to 4-3.

So, Eovaldi was struggling and the Red Sox offense sputtered in the next couple of innings following their first-inning outburst. The good news is the momentum started tilting back in Boston’s favor in the fourth. Bradley got the rally going in the top of that inning with one out when he smacked a double off the wall in left-center field then moved over to third when the throw back in got away. Yarbrough then walked Devers, and the lefty’s day was done with the Rays calling on righty Andrew Kittredge. His control was not much better, though, as he hit Bogaerts before issuing a walk to Martinez, and the Red Sox had their lead back up to two. They’d get one more when the Rays righty threw a wild pitch with two outs, and the Red Sox had a 6-3 lead at the end of the inning.

On the other side, Eovaldi started to settle down after allowing one run in each of his first three innings. He did allow two baserunners in the fourth but no runs crossed the plate. The righty then came back out and tossed two consecutive perfect innings in the fifth and sixth to finish his day.

Boston came back out in the seventh and got going again. This time it was back-to-back singles from Martinez and Vázquez that put runners on the corners with nobody out. The next two batters would strike out, but then Brandon Lowe made a big error at second base to give the Red Sox another lead, putting them up 7-3.

With the four-run lead, Darwinzon Hernandez came on for what could very well be his final outing of 2019. The lefty did get a couple of outs to start thing off, but he couldn’t get out number three. He’d issue a walk and allow a base hit to put two on and end his outing as well as (potentially) his season. Colten Brewer got the call with two on and two out in the four-run game. Both runners advanced to scoring position on a wild pitch, but Brewer stranded them there by inducing an inning-ending ground out that kept the lead at four.

For the eighth, Matt Barnes got the call. The righty did issue a walk but was perfect otherwise with two more strikeouts to tally onto his season total. The ninth, meanwhile, belonged to Trevor Kelley. The righty got a quick first out, but then Brendan McKay came to the plate. The two-way prospect has mainly pitched in his early major-league career, but he showed off his hitting skills here. He demolished a Kelley sinker that stayed too far up in the zone for his first career home run.

Kelley did get one more out, but then Alex Cora went to Brandon Workman. I like to think he made this change just to troll the media members who like to complain about game time on a consistent basis, but that’s probably not the real reason. Anyway, Workman got a ground ball to end this game and convert the save.

Edit: Apparently Workman didn’t get credit for the save.

The Red Sox and Rays will finish their series on Monday with Jhoulys Chacín set to take on Blake Snell. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.