Desperately in need of a win on Wednesday, the Red Sox were turning to their de facto ace for the season, Nathan Eovaldi, and in search of an offense that has been mysteriously missing for the last week or so. They got the pitching, as Eovaldi was outstanding in his six shutout innings, but the offense was hard to come by early on thanks to a barrage of double plays. But the bats came along eventually, and the bullpen held the shutout as the Red Sox broke their losing streak and, at least for another day, maintained their hold on a playoff position.
The four-game losing streak that the Red Sox were riding heading into Wednesday’s game in Baltimore started on Friday with Nathan Eovaldi on the mound. He looked uncharacteristically hittable against the Yankees, a start in which two of his key secondaries just were not working, leaving him with a much more predictable arsenal. The results spoke for themselves. The good news is that Eovaldi has not made a habit of stringing bad starts together this season, which is why he’s in consideration for making a potential Wildcard Game start (provided they make it, of course) and why he’s going to be on Cy Young ballots after the season. He very much looked improved over that last time out.
Eovaldi was, in a word, dominant against Baltimore on Wednesday. After not striking out a batter against the Yankees on Friday, he started this game by striking out the first two batters he faced, and five of his first six outs were by the way of the K. There was some trouble here and there early on, once on a double from Austin Hays in the first, and again later in the third when he worked around a leadoff double. In all, he was able to make it through his first five innings without a run, striking out six and sitting with only 67 pitches.
But as we talked about in the morning before this game, this offense has just not been getting the job done during this skid. They lost the first game of this series after managing just two runs and three hits against an Orioles team that has the worst pitching in all of baseball. They put more traffic on the bases on Wednesday, but they weren’t getting the runs to show for it thanks to a bombardment of double plays in the first half of the game.
To be fair, they did take an early lead just as they did on Tuesday thanks to a solo home run. While Kyle Schwarber hit the homer last night, it was J.D. Martinez this time around. His lack of offense these last four games has been particularly notable, so it was encouraging to see him crush a changeup over the heart of the plate for a solo shot out to straightaway center field.
But that was the extent of the offense through the first five innings. As I said, there was traffic, but the double play ball was unrelenting. In the first, Kiké Hernández led the inning off with a base hit, but it was followed by two ground balls, the second of which was a double play. They started the third with back-to-back singles, but then Hunter Renfroe hit a line drive right at Kelvin Gutierrez at third, which turned into a double play. They’d get another hit in the inning too, to put runners on the corners, but no runs scored. And then in the fifth, they once again started off with two straight singles before their third double play of the game, leading to another scoreless inning.
Finally, the sixth brought some good fortune as well as good swings. Rafael Devers started the inning off with a base hit, and it actually did look like Xander Bogaerts was hitting into another double play after that. He hit one over to third base that could have been converted for two if it was fielded cleanly, but Gutierrez couldn’t handle it, putting Bogaerts on second and Devers on third on what was ruled an error. That brought Martinez back to the plate, and he came through with a two-run double to open up the game a bit to a 3-0 score.
So with the extended lead, Eovaldi came back out to the mound but he got into trouble. The inning started with Cedric Mullins going against the shift and grounding a double down the third base line. Eovaldi followed that up with his first walk of the evening to put the first two men on. But the Red Sox righty was able to settle down from there, getting two fly balls and a strikeout to get out of the sixth unscathed. That’d be the end of his night, and a great rebound from his last outing.
With Eovaldi exiting, it was Ryan Brasier coming on for the bottom half of the seventh, his team still up 3-0. He did not start his outing in the fashion he’d hoped, issuing a free pass to the first batter he faced. That was all he’d give up, though, retiring the next three batters (two on strikeouts) to keep the shutout going.
In the eighth, the Red Sox offense found itself with another opportunity, with Bogaerts and Martinez smacking back-to-back one-out singles. After Kyle Schwarber struck out, who entered as a pinch hitter, Travis Shaw came up, also as a pinch hitter. His at bat went better as he kept the inning alive with a walk to load the bases, and Alex Verdugo came through with a base hit into left field. Although Shaw got thrown out trying to get to third, two runs did come across to make it a 5-0 game.
That just left it up to the bullpen to not let anything silly happen, and they obliged. Hansel Robles and Matt Barnes tossed a scoreless inning each to finish this one out. For good measure, Hunter Renfroe smashed a solo homer in the ninth to add a sixth run for Boston.
The 6-0 victory pushed the Red Sox record to 89-69. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays squeaked by with a one-run win over the Yankees. As a result, the Red Sox pull back to within a game of the top wildcard spot while Toronto stays a game behind Boston for the second spot. Seattle started the day trailing the Red Sox by a half-game, and they take on Oakland starting at 10:10 PM ET.
The Red Sox and Orioles now have a rubber match on the docket for Thursday with Nick Pivetta set to take on Alexander Wells. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET.