Well, that’s certainly the kind of start the Red Sox were looking for to their 2020 season. We have to point out the obvious caveat that they were taking on the Orioles to open their year, and Baltimore legitimately might have trouble getting to double digit wins, but this was a strong game all around for the Red Sox. Nathan Eovaldi was outstanding for six innings, with his biggest issue being mistakenly grabbing Christian Vázquez’s alternate jersey for the third inning. The offense exploded for 13 runs in an effort that included a whopping eight doubles and big performances from José Peraza, who had four hits, as well as J.D. Martinez, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Kevin Pillar, all of whom had three hits. Throw in a couple of solid performances from newcomers in the bullpen, and this is how you start a season.
This is a big year for Nathan Eovaldi, who has something to prove after signing a big deal prior to last season and then proceeding to underperform and suffer through injuries all year. Not only is he looking for a bounce back to prove he’s worth that contract, but he’s also the ace of a staff that is being (rightfully, in my humble opinion) panned by analysts locally and nationally. One devilishly handsome writer even called him the most important player on the Red Sox this season. The point is, all eyes are on the big righty this summer.
I’m pretty sure he knows it, too, because he came out firing. Literally. The first pitch at Fenway in this 2020 season was a 100 mph fastball effortlessly heaved by Eovaldi for strike one. To be fair, the next pitch wasn’t great and it was hit pretty well, but new addition Kevin Pillar made a hell of a running pitch going back toward the wall in right field for the first out. That would prove to be the loudest contact off Eovaldi for quite a bit, though.
The righty tossed a 1-2-3 in the first, and then in the next two frames he allowed just a single in both innings. A double play in the third made sure he faced just one batter more than the minimum through three. In fact, after the leadoff fly out each of the next nine batters he faced hit the ball on the ground, which is a very nice sign for Eovaldi.
So, the starter did his job early on, and it was up to the offense to do the same against the soft-tossing Tommy Milone. Except the lefty actually toyed with Boston’s bats early, including getting two very ugly strikeouts against Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts in the first. The Red Sox did draw a walk in each of the first two innings, but they only sent seven total batters to the plate thanks in part to Christian Vázquez being immediately picked off after drawing his walk in the second.
In the top of the third, though, the Red Sox offense got to work. The first hit of the night, and the season, went to Jackie Bradley Jr. as he dropped a double into the left field corner to lead off the inning. José Peraza then followed that up with a double of his own to almost the exact same spot in left field, and just like that it was a 1-0 lead for the good guys. A couple batters later, Martinez hit another double — again in pretty much the exact same spot! — to make it a 2-0 lead. After a walk and a wild pitch put a pair in scoring position, Pillar would finish the damage with a fourth double to roughly the same spot towards the left field corner. That one scored two, and it was a 4-0 lead for the Red Sox after three.
Eovaldi came back out and got into his first jam of the year in the top half of the fourth, starting with a double from old friend José Iglesias. That was followed up with a ground ball to third base on which Devers made a nice pick behind the bag but let his throw sail. Michael Chavis had to jump to keep the ball from getting away, and on replay it actually looked like he got the tag down in time. For some reason the Red Sox opted not to challenge and there runners on the corners with just one out. This was Boston’s night, though, and a line drive right to Chavis in the next at bat resulted in a double play and kept the Orioles off the board.
Then, in the bottom of the inning, the game was put away. The Orioles went to Cody Carroll out of the bullpen to start this one, and that did not exactly work out. The righty walked the first two batters he faced before giving up a single, and the bases were quickly loaded. Another walk then pushed a fifth Red Sox run across the board. Old friend Travis Lakins came in for Carroll after the walk, but nothing really changed. J.D. Martinez came up and smacked his second double of the game, this one coming just shy of a home run and scoring two. After finally getting the first out of the inning, Lakins then gave up three straight singles and in the blink of an eye Boston had reached double digits with a 10-0 lead.
Now, this game was pretty much just about what Eovaldi would do the rest of the way. He came out after the long rest in the bottom of the fourth and allowed just a walk in the top of the fifth. The shutout went away in the sixth, though, as he allowed a pair of doubles, the second of which gave Baltimore their first run of the night. Overall, though, it was a very encouraging night for Eovaldi as he finished with six innings and just the one run scoring on five hits and a walk with four strikeouts.
After the Red Sox added three more runs on three more doubles in the bottom of the sixth, Austin Brice came on for the seventh to make his Red Sox debut. It was not an ideal debut with his new team. Rio Ruiz came up as the second batter Brice faced in the inning, and with a 1-1 count he tried to sneak a fastball by the Orioles third baseman. Instead, he left it right over the plate and Ruiz deposited it into the Red Sox bullpen to make it a 13-2 game. To be fair, Brice came back with a pair of strikeouts after the homer to end the inning.
The eighth then belonged to Phillips Valdez. Things got off to a bit of a rough start in his Red Sox debut as he hit the first batter he faced, but that was followed up with a double play (and a very pretty one at that) and a fly ball to make it a three-batter inning all the same. He’d then come back out for the ninth. The righty did hit another batter here, but that was all he allowed in a scoreless inning to close out a hell of a start to the 2020 season.
The Red Sox will look to carry this momentum for a quick turnaround as they continue this series tomorrow afternoon. That game will have Martín Pérez making his Red Sox debut as the Orioles counter with Alex Cobb. First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 PM ET.