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Eovaldi cranks it up (5 100+ mph!) in last start

Righty empties tank vs. O's, does something he hasn't since 2016
@IanMBrowne
September 24, 2020

BOSTON -- Nathan Eovaldi clearly had a full tank in his final start of 2020, as he fired five heaters at 100 mph or more -- his most in a regular-season start since 2016. In a six-inning performance, the flame-throwing righty emptied that tank with a strong effort that should

BOSTON -- Nathan Eovaldi clearly had a full tank in his final start of 2020, as he fired five heaters at 100 mph or more -- his most in a regular-season start since 2016.

In a six-inning performance, the flame-throwing righty emptied that tank with a strong effort that should leave him feeling good following his final start of the season.

Eovaldi threw six shutout frames, walking one and striking out eight while leading the Red Sox to a 9-1 victory over the Orioles on Wednesday night.

Box score

Of Eovaldi’s 92 pitches, Baltimore whiffed at 18 of them. He averaged 98.4 mph with his heater. In a sign of how strong Eovaldi’s pitch mix was, he got six swings-and-misses on four-seam fastballs, six on cutters, five on splitters and one on his curve.

His final pitch of the season was a 97.9 mph fastball that O’s catcher Chance Sisco swung through.

“Yeah, go out there and leave it all out there,” said Eovaldi. “I felt really good, I felt like I was ahead most of the counts, and it’s just put the guys away. So I felt like I left a couple pitches here and there where they were able to get on base, but I was able to navigate out of it.”

Though Eovaldi was limited to nine starts on the year due to a nagging right calf strain that sidelined him for three weeks, he made it through the season without any type of arm ailment. This should help lead Eovaldi into a productive offseason -- and give him momentum heading into the final two years of his contract with the Red Sox.

“I’m going to treat the offseason as I would any other offseason,” said Eovaldi. “I feel really good going into the offseason, so that’s nice. Usually by this time, my arm feels a little bit tired, my body feels tired. But right now, I feel really fresh. And obviously it’s disappointing that we’re not going to the playoffs, things like that, but going into the offseason now, treat it like any other offseason and come back ready to go next year.”

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In a season where Boston’s top two starting pitchers (Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez) didn’t throw a pitch, Eovaldi did what he could to pick up the slack, finishing 4-2 with a 3.72 ERA. Take away one outing, when the Yankees roughed him up for eight runs in 5 1/3 innings, and his overall numbers would have looked better.

“He’s always going to prepare himself well. Physically, mentally, he’s always prepared,” said Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke. “But it’s about locating pitches. And when he can locate, he is outstanding. It’s just trying to repeat those pitches all the time and making sure that -- with two strikes especially -- that he’s got the offspeed stuff out of the zone. But he’s a pleasure to be around, pleasure to watch work and prepare, and I’m glad we got him back out there for a few more at the end.”

The Red Sox hope to get Rodriguez (Myocarditis) back for the start of 2021 and Sale (Tommy John surgery) back before the middle of the season. Add in Eovaldi as a solid mid-rotation starter to go along with Martín Pérez (club option for $6.25 million) and promising young righties Tanner Houck and Nick Pivetta, Boston could have a significant improvement in the starting rotation from this difficult season.

Eovaldi will look to do his part.

“I try to improve every year, try to figure something out, get better,” Eovaldi said. “I felt like this year I was able to limit the walks and be aggressive more in the strike zone, attack the hitters with all my pitches.”

One thing is certain: Eovaldi will never be a comfortable at-bat.

“The guy throws 98-100 [mph] and has a cutter that’s 94, and just has wipeout stuff,” said Orioles outfielder Austin Hays. “It’s just going to be a difficult at-bat from the start.”

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.