The Red Sox bullpen has struggled mightily so far this season and yesterday’s stunning late-inning collapse was simply the latest entry to an already long list of blown leads. But Nathan Eovaldi spared us that torture by twirling a complete game from the mound and keeping the bullpen rested. Four hits from Rafael Devers, two RBIs from Enrique Hernandez and a pinch-hit home run from Bobby Dalbec fueled the offense as Boston topped the O’s, 5-3 in game one of a day-night doubleheader.
Things got hairy for the Sox right from the jump. Cedric Mullins slapped a leadoff, infield single up the middle, then Devers failed to corral a hotshot line drive hit to the left of his head, marking his second error of the series and third of in the last four games. The next batter, Anthony Santander singled against the shift to plate a run before Eovaldi could record an out.
Eovaldi was able to hold the damage to one, but did it by a narrow margin. With runners on first and second and one down, he rolled a ground ball to third. Devers fired to second for one out and Christian Arroyo relayed to first, but his throw took Franchy Cordero off the bag. Ryan Mountcastle was initially ruled safe, but Franchy immediately called for a review and he should thank his lucky stars that the call was overturned because, while he turned to the dugout demanding they take a second look, Santander slipped behind the distracted defense and scored from third. However, it ended up not mattering because Franchy got his foot down just in time to record the out.
Eovaldi then began to settle in. He escaped the second on just nine pitches thanks in large part to a couple of first-pitch grounders off the bats of Ramon Urias and Robinson Chirinos.
The Red Sox had a chance to knot the early score at one when Alex Verdugo led off the home half of the second with a single back up the middle. Arroyo followed it up with a wall-ball double and Carlos Febles sent Verdugo, who was chugging all the way from first, home. The Orioles didn’t play the ball particularly well but still hosed Verdugo. It was kind of a weird decision by Febels given that there was only one out and the Red Sox had been hammering balls off of Orioles starter Jordan Lyles.
But the bottom of the order kept the inning alive and more than made up for the failed send with some very timely two-out hitting. After Kevin Plawecki walked, Jackie Bradley Jr. converted the two-out, first and third opportunity with a double to left field — his sixth opposite-field double at home which is the most in baseball. Arroyo scored easily from third and the Sox weren’t done there. Hernandez snuck a base hit in between Rougned Odor and Urias on the left side of the infield, plating two more runs and giving the Red Sox a 3-1 lead.
Eovaldi let the Orioles back in the game, though. In the fifth, against the light hitters at the bottom of Baltimore’s order, he left some breaking balls out over the plate and the O’s teed off. The seventh hitter Urias doubled on the first pitch he saw — a slider — then Robinson Chirinos crushed another slider for a two-run home run. It was the 16th homer Eovaldi’s given up this season, the most in the majors and already a higher total of dingers than he surrendered over all of last season.
As Will Flemming pointed out on the radio broadcast, Nate’s final line didn’t look awful but my own eye test was not forgiving. He threw nine efficient innings and that was certainly valuable on a day in which you’re playing two. He also gave up just three runs but while pitching to a lineup he probably should have cruised against, Eovaldi was still missing the kind of power and command that has made him so effective in the past. That said, his durability allowed the Red Sox to save their bullpen for the nightcap, so you can’t complain about that.
In the bottom half of the fifth, the Sox chased Lyles from the mound but still squandered a prime chance to reclaim the lead. Back-to-back singles from Devers and Martinez put runners on the corners with nobody out. Bogaerts wasn’t able to drive Devers in from third and instead struck out on three pitches. His second poor at bat of the afternoon ended just as the first did — with Bogaerts chasing a breaking ball that tailed away from him and ended in the opposite batter's box.
With the red-hot, left-handed Verdugo set to hit, the Orioles called for another lefty — Keegan Akin. He got Verdugo to pop out harmlessly to short. Arroyo was next and he scalded a line drive that seemed destined for the right field grass, but Odor made a nice running catch to end the frame and neutralize the threat.
Bobby Dalbec pinch hit for Cordero to lead off the sixth and made Alex Cora look like a genius by blasting a 3-2 fastball from Akin into the Red Sox bullpen. It was a solo shot that gave his club a 4-3 lead.
They added some insurance in the seventh when consecutive hits from Martinez and Bogaerts put runners on second and third with one out. After a fielder's choice swapped Bogaerts on second for Verdugo on first, a swinging bunt base hit from Arroyo allowed Martinez to scamper home and make it 5-3, Sox. Dalbec came up with a chance to do some more damage but O’s reliever Bryan Baker robbed him of a hit by deflecting a 104-mph grounder off his foot and flipping to first for the out.
The rest of the game continued uneventfully, as Eovaldi faced the minimum through the final two innings. he put a bow on the win in the ninth with a tailor-made ground ball to Arroyo, who turned a double play with Bogaerts to close things out.
The Sox are now 22-24 and get one more shot at inching closer to .500 tonight in game two of the doubleheader, which is slated for a 6:10 p.m. first pitch.