Eovaldi embraces latest win-or-go-home start

Red Sox righty: 'This is what everybody wants to do'

October 21st, 2021

BOSTON -- In the postseason, every game has a “must-win” feel, regardless of where a series stands. The mindset of winning today and worrying later about what’s next is a mentality shared by many October teams.

For , Boston’s unofficial ace has become quite familiar with pitching in actual must-win situations.

When the Red Sox punched their ticket to the American League Wild Card Game, it was Eovaldi who got the ball in the one-game playoff against the Yankees. And on Friday night in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series, it will once again be Eovaldi on the mound as the Red Sox fight off elimination, trailing 3-2 in the series.

Does the pressure get to Eovaldi? Not at all. In fact, “I love it,” he said.

“I feel like this is what everybody wants to do,” Eovaldi said of pitching in an elimination game. “Every guy in the locker room wants to be able to start [Friday] and be able to be in this situation, and I'm thankful that I get to be here and be able to do it. There's just something about when everything is on the line, and I think it brings the best out of us.”

Eovaldi has made four appearances (three starts) in the postseason thus far. The righty has given his team at least five innings in all three starts, something not many starters have done this October.

“We feel good about him,” manager Alex Cora said. “He has been throwing the ball well. He is throwing the ball well down there. I think we'll make a few adjustments with their lineups. And we're rested, the bullpen is rested -- so we'll do everything possible [Friday] to win that game. And then we'll move forward to the next one.”

Eovaldi’s lone relief outing this postseason didn’t go as well for the righty. He gave up four runs and recorded just two outs in a Game 4 ALCS loss to Houston on Tuesday. Eovaldi entered the game on short rest, having started against the Astros three days earlier. With Tuesday originally scheduled as a bullpen day for the righty, Eovaldi doesn’t feel his 24 pitches in Game 4 will affect his Game 6 start.

“I think having the two days in between definitely helps,” Eovaldi said on Thursday. “I took [Wednesday] off. I didn't really throw. Made sure I was nice and recovered. Just got done playing catch today. I feel great. I don't think there's any limitations. My arm feels good, and mentally I'm going to be ready and prepared for this game [Friday].”

In 2018, Eovaldi emerged as one of Boston’s best weapons out of the bullpen. Across four relief appearances in the ALCS and World Series, Eovaldi had a 0.96 ERA. His one earned run came during a gutsy six-inning outing in Game 3 of the World Series, one in which he entered in the 12th inning.

Cora has seen a lot of success in his all-hands-on-deck pitching approach during the postseason. The Red Sox manager has frequently mentioned texting his starters “spikes on,” meaning everyone should be ready to go out of the bullpen.

Aside from his own confidence, Eovaldi has the support of his team behind him. Xander Bogaerts, who witnessed firsthand Eovaldi’s dominant 2018 postseason performance, says that he and the rest of the players have “a lot” of faith in their starter heading into Game 5.

“He has been great this whole postseason -- throughout the most part of his career, he has done a great job, man,” Bogaerts said. “Bringing back a lot of memories in 2018, all the special things that he did those couple of years ago. This year, man, he has been pitching the ball real well the whole year. He has been extremely consistent from Day One until this point. Obviously, having Chris Sale before and then him right after, I mean, you had to like your chances with that.”