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Eovaldi dominates Twins in Red Sox debut

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- Nathan Eovaldi's debut for the Red Sox was marked by precision (82 pitches, no walks in seven innings) and dominance (four hits, no runs, five strikeouts). The hard-throwing righty created excitement for what he can bring to his new team down the stretch by leading Boston to a 3-0 victory over the Twins on Sunday at Fenway Park.

"He was very good," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "Good mix of pitches, cutters, four-seamers, breaking ball. He was very efficient. [I] took him out [after seven], he hasn't pitched in a while. What a great way to start his career with the Red Sox."

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BOSTON -- Nathan Eovaldi's debut for the Red Sox was marked by precision (82 pitches, no walks in seven innings) and dominance (four hits, no runs, five strikeouts). The hard-throwing righty created excitement for what he can bring to his new team down the stretch by leading Boston to a 3-0 victory over the Twins on Sunday at Fenway Park.

"He was very good," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "Good mix of pitches, cutters, four-seamers, breaking ball. He was very efficient. [I] took him out [after seven], he hasn't pitched in a while. What a great way to start his career with the Red Sox."

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Eovaldi quickly saw first hand the value that J.D. Martinez and Jackie Bradley Jr. bring to a team that improved to an MLB-best 74-33 to maintain a 5 1/2-game lead over the Yankees in the American League East.

Martinez had all three RBIs against Twins ace Jose Berrios to increase his league-leading total to 89. Bradley made a jaw-dropping, diving catch in the gap in left-center, in which he tumbled into the scoreboard at the bottom of the Green Monster.

Video: MIN@BOS: Bradley dives into wall for an amazing catch

"Yeah, the defense today was unreal," Eovaldi said. "Jackie made that play out there. I hung a slider and I knew it was hit well -- and I saw him with his head down and he had a great route to make that play. Especially to lead off the inning, [his catch] was huge for me."

With shortstop Xander Bogaerts and first baseman Mitch Moreland resting and third baseman Rafael Devers (left hamstring strain) placed on the disabled list prior to the game, the Red Sox dipped into their bench and still found a way to keep rolling.

Blake Swihart made his first career start at third base and went 2-for-4. Andrew Benintendi, Martinez and Eduardo Nunez each had two hits.

Video: MIN@BOS: Swihart handles tough hop, starts 5-4-3 DP

"Everybody is contributing," said Cora. "We're deeper now than we were a few [weeks ago], obviously not [as much] with Devers out. But we feel like with our bench, we can use it again -- because we've got some capable guys there."

On a day in which winning pitcher Eovaldi (4-4, 3.80 ERA) was in top form, the modest run support was enough.

Matt Barnes fired a scoreless eighth, and closer Craig Kimbrel came on in the ninth to notch his 33rd save of the season.

Video: MIN@BOS: Kimbrel earns save, as Lin turns double play

As for Eovaldi, his primary weapons were a pinpoint fastball that averaged 97.4 mph and a sharp cutter.

"Yeah, I felt like I had all my pitches really working today," Eovaldi said. "I was able to mix in the curveball a lot more than I have in the past. The fastball and cutter were there. The slider felt really good and I threw some decent splits today, as well."

The fun really starts for Eovaldi next time out, when he re-enters the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry and pitches the third game of the four-game series between the AL East heavyweights. Eovaldi pitched for the Yankees in 2015-16.

"I mean, I like pitching against the Yankees, and I feel like it's the competition I look forward to most," Eovaldi said. "I know being a part of the Yankees, that rivalry and everything and how the fans really get into it -- and, you know, like I said before, it's all about competing. And with the fans that involved in it, it makes it that much more fun."

HEAVY HEART
Cora managed Sunday's game with a heavy heart, after learning late on Saturday night that 16-year-old Ari Arteaga, son of his best friend J.D. Arteaga, died in a car accident. The elder Arteaga is the pitching coach of the University of Miami, where Cora played. Cora had the initials "AA" written on his hat for Sunday's game.

"I have to be honest, today was a tough day for us as a family," said Cora. "He's my best friend. They adopted me, basically, when I moved to Miami. What happened to Ari, I can't even explain it. It puts everything in perspective.

"You know, we get caught up in this madness that is the pennant race -- and the AL East and the Red Sox and the Yankees. But you know what? At the end, this is just baseball. I had a joy watching our guys play. They kind of calmed down. We knew him. There's a lot of people here that know J.D. and Ari, and to go through the night and all the phone calls and everything that happened with the kid, God bless him.

"He was 16, you know? My daughter is 15. I probably had the toughest call of my life this morning -- just to tell her what happened. So, I'm glad we won. I'm glad we were able to play and I was able to relax. But it's been a tough day for me. So, that's for him."

SOUND SMART
This is the first time the Red Sox have been as many as 41 games above .500 since 1946.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Bradley thrilled the packed house (36,785) at Fenway in the top of the third, when Twins catcher Bobby Wilson belted one to the gap in left-center. Bradley got a good read on the liner and sprinted there in time for a sprawling, tumbling catch on the warning track. According to Statcast™, Bradley traveled 78 feet in 4.4 seconds. It was a 4-star grab with a catch probability of 42 percent. Bradley has eight 4-star catches this season, tying him with Ender Inciarte (Braves) and Delino DeShields Jr. (Rangers) for the most in MLB this season.

Video: MIN@BOS: Bradley Jr. covers 78 feet for amazing catch

HE SAID IT
"I think I take some calculated risks. But I'm always very ... aware of my surroundings. I pride myself on knowing where the wall is. And knowing that, I had enough room to make the play." -- Bradley, on how he avoids injury after his highlight-reel catches

UP NEXT
Lefty David Price (11-6, 4.17 ERA) will be plenty rested when he opens this two-game series against the Phillies on Monday night at Fenway Park. Price threw just one inning in his last start at Camden Yards, only to have the game rained out. Since that inning doesn't count, Price has only 6 2/3 innings in the books since July 13. Price is 5-2 with a 3.69 ERA in eight starts at Fenway Park this season. In three lifetime starts against the Phillies, he is 1-1 with a 4.67 ERA. The Phillies counter with ace Aaron Nola (12-3, 2.42 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.

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

Boston Red Sox, Nathan Eovaldi, Jackie Bradley Jr., J.D. Martinez