The most perilous portion of the Red Sox schedule in any given season is always going to be the long west coast swing, and the 2022 version started on Friday. They have three in Oakland, four in Los Angeles to play the Angels, and then three against the Mariners in a key stretch. They largely turned things around in May, but stumbled to finish out the month against opponents they should have handled, and find themselves at a crossroads with a lot of questions to be answered over this road trip. They started off on a positive note behind a great start from Nathan Eovaldi and a homer from Xander Bogaerts to lead the way in a Friday night victory.
More robust game notes below.
It would be unfair to say that Nathan Eovaldi has been bad this season, but it’s certainly fair to point out the one flaw that has prevented him from being great. Eovaldi has had an incredibly difficult time all year keeping the ball in the yard, having allowed at least one home run in each of his starts save for one. Still, he’s been effective, is coming off the first complete game of his career, and is heading to a big park in Oakland to face a light-hitting Athletics lineup. If he is going to kick the homer habit, even for just a start, this would be the time to do it.
He held up his end of the bargain, pitching like a staff ace and shutting down the Athletics lineup. There was some mild trouble in the first inning when old friend Jed Lowrie smacked a two-out double out to left field to put a runner in scoring position, but that would be the only Oakland batter to reach over the first three innings. Eovaldi’s first real trouble to deal with came in the fourth, starting off with a leadoff single off the bat of Ramón Laureano. A wild pitch then moved the runner up into scoring position, still with nobody out, and there were runners on the corners after a one-out single from Seth Brown.
This was a big spot for Eovaldi, but he settled in and pitched like he typically does in big spots. He induced a fly ball that couldn’t get the run home for a big second out, and after a stolen base put both runners in scoring position, Eovaldi got a huge ground out to end the inning and keep the A’s off the board. He’d come back out in the fifth as well, working around a single baserunner for a scoreless frame.
Meanwhile, the offense was looking to get their west coast swing off to a good start, facing former Yankees prospect James Kaprielian. They struggled to get much of anything going over the early portions of this game, sending only three to the plate in the first thanks to a double play, then stranding a pair in the second before a 1-2-3 third.
But the fourth finally broke the scoreless tie and showed a little life for the Red Sox. It got started with Xander Bogaerts, who came to the plate with nobody on and one out. He was sitting dead red in a 2-0 count, and got the fastball he was looking for. The ball was sent out to left field up and over the wall for a solo shot, giving Boston their first run of the day. They didn’t stop there either, with Alex Verdugo following the homer up with a walk. A couple batters later, Franchy Cordero came through, ripping a double out to right field to bring the runner all the way from first, and it was a 2-0 lead for the road team.
That was still the score heading into the sixth when the Red Sox offense got going again. This time J.D. Martinez started the rally with a base hit before Verdugo again reached base, this time getting hit by a pitch. With two men on, Trevor Story worked a full count, and in fact thought strike two should have been ball four. But the at bat continued, which wound up being a good thing because he put a double off the wall in left field. That knock brought both runners home, doubling up the lead and making it a 4-0 game.
That just left things up to the pitching to keep doing what they were doing. For his part, Eovaldi had one more inning left in him, working around another baserunner in the sixth to finish off a very strong outing. He didn’t allow a run over his six innings of work, striking out eight while only issuing a single walk.
Now the bullpen needed to get the job done closing out the last three innings. The seventh went off without a hitch as Tyler Danish came in for a perfect frame, but he then came back out for the eighth and put the leadoff man on with a walk. With a lefty coming up, Alex Cora then turned to Matt Strahm, who got the first out but then issued another walk to put two on with just one out. Lowrie then came up to the plate and he hit his second double of the day, this one bringing two runs home to make it a 4-2 game.
That also ended the night for Strahm, with John Schreiber coming in as the third pitcher to appear in the inning. The righty struck out the first batter he faced, but then threw a wild pitch and walked Elvis Andrus, putting runners on the corners with two outs for Chad Pinder. Fortunately, Schreiber induced a routine ground ball right at Story to end the inning and keep Boston up by a pair.
Fortunately, the offense added some insurance in the ninth with Rafael Devers knocking in a run with a double and then Bogaerts driving in two more with a two-bagger of his own, opening up a five-run lead. Ryan Brasier was out to close it out, and he did so by retiring the side in order to finish out the 7-2 win.
The Red Sox look to clinch this series Saturday afternoon in Oakland with Nick Pivetta taking on Paul Blackburn. First pitch is set for 4:07 PM ET.
That’s a wrap on my time here at OTM. I just wanted to take one more opportunity to thank everyone for reading all these years. It’s been an absolute pleasure, and I’ll always look back on this time fondly.