BOSTON -- In the first 210 career starts of Nathan Eovaldi's career, there was one common thread: He had never gone the distance.
Give the veteran fireballer credit for his timing, finally racking up his first career complete game in start No. 211 to begin Saturday's day-night doubleheader against the Orioles.
Eovaldi's performance also came on the heels of a Friday night meltdown that saw the bullpen turn an 8-2 lead after six innings into a 12-8 loss.
“It definitely meant a lot to me, especially with how much we’ve been using the bullpen lately and how much they’ve been throwing,” said Eovaldi. “To be able to come in today, especially with the doubleheader, and [manager Alex Cora] trusting me to go out there and finish the game, it means a lot to me.”
It meant every bit as much to Cora, who is in a bit of a scramble to cover innings during a stretch in which the Red Sox are playing 10 games in nine days.
Eovaldi completed one of the most satisfying regular-season performances of his career by inducing a double play -- the moment pitching coach Dave Bush informed Cora it was indeed the right-hander's first complete game.
“Got the double play, Bushy high-fived me and was like, ‘That’s his first one.’ I was like, ‘Great.’ Great timing, too,” said Cora. “Like I said, he’s been throwing the ball well. He had that bad one [five homers allowed in one inning] against Houston. He’s made some adjustments, and he works so hard on everything. It was good to see them celebrate him down there [in the clubhouse]. Well deserved. That was outstanding.”
Though it wasn’t a masterpiece for the righty, who gave up seven hits and two earned runs, the priority of the day was for Eovaldi to pitch deep into the game -- and he did just that.
Eovaldi had gotten 24 outs in eight previous starts, but was able to stretch it out to 27 this time, on a day his team needed it most.
The veteran threw 108 pitches, 75 for strikes. Eovaldi walked one and struck out six.
Given Eovaldi’s arsenal of nasty pitches, it was somewhat surprising he had never navigated a ninth inning before.
Then again, his history of injuries -- which he has managed to mainly keep in check the last three seasons -- made it less surprising.
“It definitely means a lot to me, especially with the way the game’s trending now and the injuries I’ve had in the past,” said Eovaldi. “I know they have the best interests for me to protect me, but it means a lot to go out there and [pitch nine]. Every starter wants to go out there and finish the start."
It was the second complete game for the Red Sox this season, following Nick Pivetta's two-hitter against the Astros on May 18.
In fact, Boston is the only team to throw two complete games in 2022. There have only been seven across the Majors.
Per usual, Eovaldi utilized a varied pitch mix, throwing 49 fastballs, 25 splitters, 15 curveballs, 13 sliders and six cutters. He generated 16 whiffs (swings-and-misses).
This wasn’t a day that Eovaldi lived up to his “Nasty Nate” nickname from the outset. Rather, it was one he had to work through.
“I would say it was probably the sixth or seventh inning where the curveball started feeling better, and the splitter,” Eovaldi said. “I found it. I felt like I was falling open on the front side and the ball was kind of slipping out. I was sweating a lot, too. We had some longer innings [offensively] and I was able to cool down, get a grip on the ball and keep that front side closed and finish the pitches. I was able to get quick outs with it and go from there.”