The Red Sox are playing some good baseball as they head into the regular season, which we all know always carries over. (Note: This was sarcasm. Thank you for your time.) They got great pitching against the Orioles on Wednesday, and one two-run homer was enough for a quick 2-0 victory. Here are the notes from the day:
Nathan Eovaldi cruises
The numbers for Nathan Eovaldi heading into this start were rough, as over his first three starts of the spring he had allowed nine runs over eight innings of work on 15 hits and one walk with eight strikeouts. For whatever it may be worth, I think those numbers are a little worse than he actually looked, and the one walk was nice to see, but there’s also no doubt he hadn’t really gotten a clean outing in yet. Wednesday evening was his last chance at something close to a full outing — he’ll probably go out for one more start, but it’ll be a short one — so he was looking for something easy.
Look no further, Nate. Eovaldi was as sharp as we’ve seen him all spring, with all of his pitches seeming to work and the command being there pretty much all night. The zone was a little small in the first which seemed to frustrate him a bit, but he still only had to face three batters in the inning. Ultimately, the zone would expand for both sides as the game progressed, and Eovaldi ended up pitching into the sixth. In all, he’d go 5 2⁄3 innings without a run crossing the plate, giving up just a pair of singles and a walk while striking out three.
Eovaldi is going to be one of the most important pieces for the Red Sox this season as they look for their rotation to just keep their head above water and let the offense win them as many games as possible. Eduardo Rodriguez looks good at the top of the rotation, but they really need someone to step up behind him. Eovaldi looks like he’ll start the second game of the year, and if he pitches like he did tonight he’ll be that guy.
Another homer for Hunter Renfroe
The bottom portion of the Red Sox lineup is going to be super interesting this year in that there are going to be a whole lot of strikeouts, but also a whole lot of power potential. Renfroe is going to be part of that, and we’ve seen the power on display throughout this spring. It was there again on Wednesday, as he was responsible for all the offense in the game. He came up in the third with a man on and a 2-0 count, where Orioles starter Dean Kremer tried to get a breaking ball by him. Renfroe went down and got it on the outer portion of the plate, blasting a shot out to right field for the opposite field, two-run homer.
The home run was his third of the spring, and all three of them have showed off the easy power. There are certainly going to be contact issues here, but when he gets ahold of the baseball it will have a tendency to go a long way. The Red Sox won’t be looking for a star turn from Renfroe — though they’ll certainly take it if it comes — but rather they’ll be hoping for league-average production that is heavy on the power, driving in the more complete hitters who will be in front of him in the lineup. Renfroe also added a single on the day and has an .809 OPS on the spring.
- Also getting a pair of hits in this game was Alex Verdugo. He started in center field tonight with Renfroe in right, and he had two singles in his three plate appearances. It’s been a slow spring for Verdugo to this point after he got off to a little bit of a late start, but that’s not really a concern, especially as he’s been putting some better swings on the ball of late. He now has at least one hit in four straight games.
- Franchy Cordero also had a couple of good swings in this game. Only one turned into a hit, a single, but he also smoked a line drive that was caught for an out. I’d still lean towards him missing the start of the year only because typically once that possibility is brought up publicly it comes to pass. That said, he’s looked good in his limited time, and at the very least I don’t think he’ll miss much time, if any, to start the season.
- Coming in after Eovaldi on the mound was Hirokazu Sawamura. The righty, pitching in the majors for the first time this year after spending his career prior to this in the NPB, struggled a lot with his command in his first couple of outs. He’s settled down in a big way since then. He retired all four batters he faced on Wednesday, striking out two of them.
- The Red Sox also got a look at one of their closer candidates for this one in Adam Ottavino. He was really good once again, striking out two in a perfect inning of work. He’s now allowed one unearned run over 5 1⁄3 innings this spring on five hits, one walk and six strikeouts. Whether he is the closer or he loses the battle to Matt Barnes, who has also been quite good this spring, he will be pitching important innings when the games start to count.
- Also getting hits in this game who have not been mentioned were: Rafael Devers, who started at third and went 1-3 with a single and a strikeout as well as some strong defense at the hot corner; and Marwin Gonzalez, who started at first base and went 1-3 with a single and a strikeout and some good defense in his own right.
- Also pitching in this game who has not been mentioned was Josh Taylor, who should be in the Opening Day bullpen and he was perfect in the ninth to close things out.