David Price has absolutely been something to see in his last two October starts after having never won a single October start before then, all the way back to when he was a rookie out of the bullpen for the Rays in the postseason of 2008.
Price has slayed his postseason dragons, but the biggest pitching star for the Red Sox over the past three weeks, and as good a story as they have, has been Nathan Eovaldi, out of Nolan Ryan's hometown of Alvin, Texas. Eovaldi has undergone two Tommy John surgeries in his career, was originally drafted by the Dodgers and will be a free agent after this season. Eovaldi won three games in 10 starts for the Rays before they traded him to the Red Sox in July for a promising pitching prospect named Jalen Beeks. Three months later, Eovaldi has merely become indispensable for Boston manager Alex Cora, and mostly unhittable.
After Eovaldi, who has won two games as a starter in this postseason (one against the Yankees, one against the Astros), came out of the bullpen at Fenway Park and pitched another dazzling eighth inning in a 4-2 win in Game 2 on Tuesday night, here is what Cora said about his pitching plans for the weekend in Los Angeles: "The way it's mapped out, it's Rick [Porcello] in Game 3 and maybe Nate Game 4. But Nate might come in in the eighth again. If we have a chance to be up 3-0 with him on the mound and Craig [Kimbrel], we'll do it. … [Eovaldi] has been amazing for us."
Eovaldi has been amazing, pretty much from the time he threw seven scoreless innings against the Twins in his first Red Sox start. Starting and relieving, he has pitched 16 1/3 innings in this postseason, struck out 11 batters, walked just two, has an ERA of 1.65. He has pitched three times in relief after making just seven relief appearances in his eight years in the big leagues before this. In his most recent appearance, in Game 2, the pitch that people were talking about afterward was the 99-mph fastball he threw past Cody Bellinger. But then Eovaldi throws that hard a lot, with both precision and purpose, and rather fearlessly.
• Eovaldi electric in back-to-back games
:: World Series schedule and results ::
Price absolutely pitched the game of his life against the Astros in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series, on the night the Red Sox won the pennant. Price gave the Dodgers only three hits and two runs in Game 2 of the World Series. But the Yankees roughed up Price in his Game 2 start in the ALDS. He was better against the Astros in Game 2 of the ALCS, but still not great. Eovaldi has been great all along, from the time Cora gave him the ball to pitch Game 3 against the Yankees when that series was still tied at a game apiece.
It has gotten lost now, because Game 3 is the night when the Red Sox lit up the Yankees for 16 runs. But the way Eovaldi pitched at Yankee Stadium should not get lost. At the moment, it was the biggest game of Boston's season. The Yankees had just hit four home runs in Game 2. After that game, Aaron Judge walked through Fenway Park on the way to the team bus playing "New York, New York" on his boom box (the Curse of Sinatra about to take effect?). The Yankees had momentum and they were going home, where they had won five playoff games in a row in 2017 and the AL Wild Card Game against the A's this season.
Just three years ago, before a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow resulted in the second Tommy John surgery (the first was when he was in high school), Eovaldi was 15-3 for the Yankees, and he likely would have started an AL Division Series game if the Yankees hadn't lost the AL Wild Card Game to the Astros. Now he went back to Yankee Stadium and pitched seven one-run innings in what was, at that point, the most important start of his baseball life.
So Eovaldi had gone back to New York and beaten the Yankees. In the ALCS, the Alvin kid went up against the defending champs from Houston and won a start against them. Now he has pitched these two eighth innings against the Dodgers as the lights have gotten turned up even more. You want to know one more amazing stat on Eovaldi? After what seems like several baseball lives, he is just 28 years old.
"I knew I was on the trading block," Eovaldi said in July after learning that he'd been traded, before talking about the opportunity the Rays had given him after he'd sat out the entire 2017 season. No one knew that day, certainly not Eovaldi, that of all the Trade Deadline deals, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski had just made the most important.
"But then they say it's Boston," Eovaldi said that day, "and you can't help but be excited about that. First place in the division."
Eovaldi helped the Red Sox stay there. Now here he is and here they are, two games away from winning the World Series. A lot of Boston pitchers have had a lot to say about that. Eovaldi, a quiet guy out of Alvin, has said the most, and pitched the loudest.