'True competitor' Eovaldi in rare form

RHP's scoreless streak hits MLB-best 28 2/3 innings with 12-strikeout gem vs. A's

May 12th, 2023

OAKLAND --  was one out shy of going the distance for the second time in his past three starts. As a consolation prize, he joined some rather exclusive company with his latest gem.

Extending his career-best scoreless innings streak to 28 2/3 -- which passes the D-backs' Zac Gallen (28 IP) for the longest such streak in the Majors this season -- Eovaldi delivered another dominant start as the Rangers blanked the A's, 4-0, to open their four-game set at the Coliseum on Thursday.

Eovaldi's current run is the longest scoreless streak by a Rangers pitcher since 2015, when Yovani Gallardo kept opposing teams off the board for 33 1/3 innings. The 33-year-old righty also joined rotation mate Martín Pérez (2014) and Charlie Hough (1983) as the only Rangers pitchers to record three consecutive starts of eight-plus shutout innings.

"He's a true competitor," backstop Jonah Heim said. "He's going to go out there and give his all every inning, every pitch. … We executed the game plan like we wanted to, and I think the result speaks for itself."

With Jacob deGrom on the injured list with right elbow inflammation, Eovaldi has stepped up as the team's ace and not missed a beat -- though he was quick to credit the team's overall level of play.

"I'm really confident, especially with our defense and offense," Eovaldi said. "The offense has been able to throw up runs left and right. … We've been doing everything fundamentally right when I'm on the mound. We've been playing good baseball in general."

Facing just two batters over the minimum, Eovaldi carved through the Oakland lineup on 113 pitches and set a career high with 12 strikeouts, allowing only three hits and a walk. He induced 19 whiffs, 12 on his splitter -- an offering that he said hasn't felt right until late in the game during his last couple of outings. Eovaldi had a good feel for it from the jump on Thursday, and it showed.

"The split's the best split I've seen in a long time, and especially from him," A's manager Mark Kotsay said. "He's commanding it. He's throwing it where he wants to. He didn't miss location tonight."

While Eovaldi did a serviceable job of keeping the basepaths clear all on his own, he also got a pair of assists from Heim. Heim cut down Oakland's first two runners on the basepaths, including the speedy Esteury Ruiz -- who leads the Majors with 17 steals and has only been caught stealing three times.

"It's tough to pitch in this atmosphere," Eovaldi said. "You want to make sure that you're locked in the entire time, and don't let anything get away from you. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to finish the game."

The A's weren't able to get much going until the last possible moment. In the bottom of the ninth, Eovaldi induced a groundout from Tony Kemp and froze Nick Allen on a 96.1 mph four-seamer to get two quick outs. But Eovaldi allowed a double to Ruiz on the very next pitch and issued a free pass to Ryan Noda after that, prompting manager Bruce Bochy to summon Will Smith to record the final out.

"It's just been fun to watch the man work out there," Bochy said. "We had to help him a little bit at the end, and I don't want to overtax him either. But great job by our guys, because [Oakland's] starter had really good stuff. … We had our hands full with him, but we found a way."

Going toe-to-toe with Eovaldi, A's rookie right-hander Luis Medina was perfect the first time through the Rangers' order. But Texas' lineup saw him better the second and third times around, with  getting his team on the board first with an RBI knock in the fifth inning.  also went deep in his return to his former home ballpark.

That was more than enough for Eovaldi to work with. Lately, even the most razor-thin margins have felt like a decent cushion with the Rangers' righty on the mound.

"He's just not afraid of anything," A's catcher Shea Langeliers said. "He's going to come straight at you. … He did a really good job tonight, pounded the zone, came straight after us and almost went complete game."