Eovaldi's stifling stuff clinches Rangers' spot in ALDS

October 5th, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG -- There is probably no Texas Ranger who was happier to see the calendar flip from September to October than .

The regular season’s final month was a struggle for the right-hander as he worked his way back from a forearm strain that sidelined him for more than a month, and he proceeded to allow 21 earned runs and seven homers over 20 1/3 innings in his final six starts of the season.

But that all flies out the window when Eovaldi arrives in the postseason. He commonly raises his game during the season’s biggest games, and that was true Wednesday in the Rangers’ 7-1 triumph in Game 2 of the American League Wild Card Series against the Rays at Tropicana Field. Eovaldi allowed only one run over 6 2/3 frames and struck out eight to propel Texas to the ALDS against Baltimore.

He now owns a 2.90 ERA across 49 2/3 innings in the playoffs. With eight strikeouts and no walks against Tampa Bay, Eovaldi’s résumé also includes a stellar strikeout-to-walk ratio of 49-to-8 in the playoffs.

“He's just such a tough competitor, and you saw it today,” manager Bruce Bochy said.

So what makes the 33-year-old so tough this time of year? Eovaldi said he’s not quite sure, but he knows what’s at stake in these types of games. His offense helped him settle in early with a four-run fourth inning highlighted by homers from Adolis García and Evan Carter.

“From that moment on, it's attack, attack, attack, get outs as fast as possible,” Eovaldi said.

He followed through on that plan by not allowing a runner past first base through the first six innings. And he needed only 76 pitches to get to the seventh. It was the complete opposite of his previous start, in Seattle on Friday, when Eovaldi gave up a season-high seven earned runs in 3 1/3 innings. Still, he said he came away encouraged because he felt healthy; he just needed to sync up his mechanics a little bit.

Eovaldi was a finely tuned machine in the clincher.

“I was able to locate the fastball down and away, and I feel like I haven't been able to do that lately,” Eovaldi said. “That's a confidence booster out there, knowing that I have that pitch working, being able to rely on my fastball and my splitter as well. I thought I had really good action on that, just to keep the hitters off balance, and then I had a good mix with my curveball in there.”

He recorded 16 swings and misses, his most since June 15. The curveball accounted for five of those whiffs, three strikeouts and a double play.

The win was Eovaldi’s first in a series-ending game, but he and victory seem to go hand in hand this time of year; his team has won six of his seven career postseason starts. The latest one locked up Texas’ first postseason series win since 2011.

“We had the right guy out there,” Bochy said.