Friday was very much a potential Wildcard Game preview, aside from just being a huge game to start a huge series in this race. Taking place at Fenway with the two pitchers each team would potentially opt for if they were to make it to the one-game playoff — Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, Gerrit Cole for New York — it was setting up for an electric night. Instead, the energy was sapped out of Fenway early and this was never much of a game. Nathan Eovaldi just didn’t have it, and Cole very much did in the first half of the night. The offense did get one big inning off the Yankees ace, but that was too little too late and New York struck first this weekend.
Nathan Eovaldi is, as we all know, no stranger to pressure, and not the type of pitcher with whom we worry about that sort of the thing. The way he pitched in 2018, I think that conversation is forever out of the question with him. That doesn’t mean he will always come through in a big spot, though. We learned that the hard way on Friday.
Although Eovaldi had been the best pitcher on the team by a long shot in this second half — and all year, obviously — he didn’t look like the same guy in this game. His five-pitch mix has been on another level of late, and he’s been missing a ton of bats. He needed to keep that up for this game, because this Yankees lineup is one that is extremely hard to beat if you’re giving up a bunch of contact. Unfortunately, Eovaldi just couldn’t miss bats, and the Yankees jumped all over him early and often.
The tone was set right away when Eovaldi got to two strikes on DJ LeMahieu, but the Yankees leadoff man fought through the at bat and eventually smacked a base hit to start the game. Anthony Rizzo followed that with another base hit, and then Eovaldi made perhaps his worst pitch of the night. He left a splitter up in the zone on the inner half to Aaron Judge, and was extremely fortunate it wasn’t hit 600 feet. Instead, Judge settled for an RBI double to put New York on the board right away.
Despite the early deficit, it did seem like Eovaldi might be able to escape without the inning getting too bad. He did allow one more on a ground out, but then a fly ball that was too shallow to score the third run came down for out number two. If he could get out of it with just a 2-0 deficit, there was some positivity. Instead, Gleyber Torres hit a base hit to make it 3-0. That extra run really shouldn’t feel like all that much, but it felt like a back-breaker.
And sure enough, it just didn’t get any better for Eovaldi as the night went along. He did get a 1-2-3 second, but even that had some ominously hard contact. And sure enough, the wheels fell off in the third. Rizzo started the inning by scraping a double high off the Monster, and after a walk to Judge, Stanton came up. He got a 2-2 cutter down and in and somehow muscled it the other way for a three-run shot, and the rout was on.
With the hole now 6-0, Eovaldi gave up another base hit, and then after recording two outs he issued a walk to end his night. That brought Hirokazu Sawamura to the mound, and he should have gotten out of it with a quick pop up. The only issue is Kyle Schwarber just misplayed it and let it fall in behind him, bringing home a seventh run that would be charged to Eovaldi.
That was basically the game right there, as the Red Sox were not in a position where they were mounting a ton of offense. Going up against Gerrit Cole, they just couldn’t get anything going. The Yankees ace did have some shaky control, especially relative to his typical standards, but it didn’t really matter because there was nothing in the way of hard contact.
Boston was held without a hit until J.D. Martinez smacked a ground-rule double out to right field to break up the no-no. But that didn’t lead to any runs, and they wouldn’t manage to get any momentum against Cole through five.
As for the bullpen, Sawamura didn’t look great early in this outing but he ate a couple of innings, which was big for the Red Sox to start this huge series. The righty ultimately got through 2 1⁄3 scoreless innings to get through the fifth, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out two. Matt Barnes came on for the sixth as he looks to get himself right for a potential postseason run, and he looked pretty good with a scoreless innings.
In the bottom of the sixth, there actually was a little bit of life against the Yankees ace. Kiké Hernández led the inning off with a base hit, his third time on base on the night. Schwarber then followed that up with a single down the first base line, and there were runners on the corners with nobody out. After a Xander Bogaerts strikeout, Rafael Devers took a changeup down in the zone and crushed it to right field for a three-run shot.
But that momentum would quickly be slashed. The Red Sox couldn’t get anything else in the inning — though Martinez stung one that looked like it could have a chance — and with Martín Pérez now pitching, Torres started the seventh with a solo homer. He somehow only allowed that run in the inning, though he didn’t look great. Pérez came back for two more innings as well to finish the game without any more runs being added.
The 8-3 loss dropped the Red Sox record to 88-66. Their cushion over New York for the top wildcard spot is now just one game. Toronto started the day three behind Boston and currently trails Minnesota heading into the ninth. Seattle started four behind Boston and has an early lead over the Angels.
The Red Sox now look to rebound on Saturday with Nick Pivetta taking on Nestor Cortes Jr. First pitch is set for 4:10 PM ET.