HOUSTON -- Nathan Eovaldi will be pitching in the comforts of the city he was born in when he takes the ball for the Red Sox in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series."Yeah, it definitely is very special to me," said Eovaldi. "You know, growing up we watched
HOUSTON -- Nathan Eovaldi will be pitching in the comforts of the city he was born in when he takes the ball for the Red Sox in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.
"Yeah, it definitely is very special to me," said Eovaldi. "You know, growing up we watched a lot of baseball games here, and then travel ball and stuff we got to play a couple times. It's real special to me."
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But Eovaldi didn't feel so special the last time he pitched in Houston. That was back on June 20 with the Rays, when he gave up back-to-back-to back homers to Houston's star-studded trio of Alex Bregman, George Springer and José Altuve en route to a 5-1 loss.
Bregman actually posted a video of that barrage on Instagram on Monday, and it went viral, as things do this time of year.
Eovaldi heard about it, but he didn't even raise an eyebrow. To anyone who knows his personality, that's not surprising.
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"I don't have any social media or anything like that," said Eovaldi. "The guys have told me about it. I think home run clips, right? Something like that. Yeah, I'm aware of it."
Any added motivation?
"No, I still have a job to do," said Eovaldi. "I've got to go out there and pitch my game tomorrow, and I can't have any distractions."
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Eovaldi proved his steely-eyed focus in the last round, when he silenced a rowdy Yankee Stadium and shut down New York's potent bats amid a brilliant performance (seven innings, five hits, one run, no walks, five strikeouts) that led the Red Sox to a 16-1 victory in Game 3 of the AL Division Series.
That atmosphere should help Eovaldi prepare for his return to Houston. The Red Sox still remember how loud the fans were at Minute Maid Park during last year's ALDS loss to the Astros.
"Yeah, I mean, pitching out there in Yankee Stadium, they're a loud crowd as well," said Eovaldi. "And I feel like if I go out there and do my job, attack the zone, get that first-pitch strike, not give up any free bases, no walks, things like that, I feel like that will keep the crowd out of it a little bit."
One of the spectators in that packed house will be one of Eovaldi's idols. The flamethrowing righty grew up in Alvin, Texas, the hometown of a legendary fireballer named Nolan Ryan.
"When I was with the Yankees I had an opportunity to meet him," said Eovaldi. "And words can't really describe what it's like. But he's done a lot for us and in the community of Alvin."
If Eovaldi looked hard enough, he would probably be able to see Ryan sitting right behind home plate in Game 3. But you can be sure Eovaldi won't be looking at much aside from the target of his catcher.
"I don't really notice him in the stands. I don't really notice people in particular in the stands," Eovaldi said. "I'm so focused on the game -- locking in on the catcher and things like that. And I feel that would take my attention away from everything if I'm scanning the crowds and stuff."
Nunez back to third
Though Rafael Devers has swung the bat well both times he's started in this postseason, Red Sox manager Alex Cora will go back to Eduardo Núñez at third base in Game 3. Nunez had a couple of costly misplays in the field in Boston's loss in Game 1. The reason Nunez is starting is because the Astros are pitching lefty Dallas Keuchel. Devers has mainly started against righties the last few weeks.
"Although the numbers look like he's been getting hit by lefties, you start looking at damage and what we can do offensively, and I think it's a better matchup for us," said Cora. "I think tomorrow it will be kind of like when we faced CC [Sabathia] in New York, probably the same lineup. And we go from there.
"But Rafi is doing a good job. We've got a few matchups that probably late in the game tomorrow we can take advantage of it if they bring the righties and he's locked in."
Kimbrel trying to get back on track
Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel has pitched three times in the postseason, and he has given up at least one run on all three occasions. Fortunately, he was able to earn the save each time.
Is Kimbrel having a mechanical issue due to less regular work of late? The Red Sox are trying to figure that out.
"I'm not sure," said Cora. "I heard that the whole day today. Everybody was talking about his mechanics and rest. And it is what it is. We've got four off-days in between the regular season and the first series because we finished with the best record.
"And we're going to use him in spots that we feel he's going to be successful. Yesterday, he fell behind with [Evan] Gattis and got him out. And then with [Josh] Reddick, that was good execution. With George [Springer], 2-0 fastball right down the middle; we don't want to walk him, he hits a basehit. [Jose] Altuve gets a slider, check swing. It was a ball and he put a good swing on it and misfired."
"Yesterday he was misfiring arm-side, but we'll see. Hopefully he pitches a lot the next three days, and that will be good news for us."
Caution with Bregman
The Red Sox are a lot more worried about not letting Bregman beat them than they are with his offerings on social media. The Astros' star third baseman went 0-for-3 in the first two games of the series, but walked six times.
"They've been watching a lot of videos of Alex lately," said Cora. "You have to be very careful. He's staying in the strike zone. He's been swinging the bat well the whole second half. And he's been very disciplined.
"And we have a game plan. So far we keep throwing to the edges, and he's not swinging. He's taking his walks. But we'll stay with our game plan. We still are attacking him the way we feel. And I'm not saying, 'So far, so good,' but there's not too much damage done from that spot right now."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.